Conflict & Justice

Photos: Kandahar's ubiquitous checkpoints


At a busy traffic checkpoint, cars traveling from Arghandab into Kandahar City are searched for weapons.


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At the northern tip of Kandahar City, U.S. troops and Afghan National Civil Order Police run a traffic checkpoint at the high pass to Arghandab district, searching cars heading into the city.

On Fridays, when most workers in Kandahar have the day off, about 4,000 cars travel over the pass to have picnics in the lush Arghandab River valley. Other days, there is a steady trickle of cars, donkey carts, motorcycles and tractors using the pass.

On either side of the pass, two rocky, sun-baked peaks loom over the city. Soldiers frequently scramble up the peaks to get a better view of the surrounding area and approaching vehicles.

On the north side, twin ribbons of dark green foliage flank the dusty Arghandab riverbed, offering no hint of the violence that gripped the district just months before. To the south, Kandahar City's low buildings and twisting alleys stretch into the distance as far as the eye can see. 

"If you ask me, the reason Kandahar City is quiet this summer is because of presence — we're everywhere," said Staff Sgt. Bill Godfrey, a sniper with Apache Troop, 1-10 Cavalry. "You can't drive a quarter mile without hitting a police checkpoint or an army patrol."

On July 11, two boys from Kandahar City, Mahmudin and Nidalha, peered into cars stopped at the checkpoint, looking for babies and toddlers. When they saw one, they would administer an oral polio vaccine to the child.

Mahmudin said they were working for UNICEF. He and Nidalha wore Rotary Club ballcaps, and wore smocks with logos for UNICEF, Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization and Rotary Club.