By Sarah Chayes
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 18, 2007; Page B01
Wednesday, Oct. 31: I woke to the sound of artillery thudding — like the beat of a heavy heart. It was Afghan army batteries firing into Arghandab, at new Taliban positions there. Through several nights, I had been listening, my ears pricking like a dog’s, to the faint popping of gunfire, the clattering of helicopters, the whine of personnel carriers speeding along the roads, falling asleep only when the morning call to prayer rang out in the pre-dawn chill.
I can’t explain how this felt, the penetration of war to this crucial part of Kandahar, where I have lived for six years. Arghandab district, with its riot of tangled fruit trees, is the lung of Kandahar province; its meandering, stone-studded river is the artery of the whole region. Arghandab is shade and water, and mud-walled orchards, and mulberries and apricots, and pomegranates the size of grapefruits hanging from the willowy branches.
This magical land was first given to the fighting Alokozai tribe by Nadir Shah, who brought down the Safavid empire of Persia with its help in 1738. The latest in the line of Alokozai leaders was the gentle, jocular military genius Mullah Naqib, who died of a heart attack in mid-October. Mullah Naqib fought the Soviets from his base in Arghandab; they were never able to dislodge the mujahideen from this place.