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Posters extolling Samaruddin, who was killed after shooting dead two American soldiers last month, as a shahid and a ghazi--a killer of infidels--stare from shop walls and windows in Maimana, the capital of northwestern Faryab province. Image by Anna Badkhen, Afghanistan, Beneath a span beam bridge at the northern border of this provincial capital, the Maimana River trickles to a dun seep and turns to dust.
Behind it, the layered escarpments of Turkestan Mountains' 12,foot crest fade to opal, then to nothing, evanescing into the blown-glass sky. Between the mountains and the stream, on the dusty outskirts of Maimana, a handful of quivering flags mark the newest shrine in Faryab province: the grave of Samaruddin, a young border police officer killed by NATO troops after he murdered two American soldiers last month.
In this land of transubstantiation, the double metamorphosis of a policeman into a murderer and then, almost instantaneously, a saint lays bare the ultimate fulcrum for all the defeats of all the invasions that have befallen Afghanistan since time immemorial: the fervent, almost mystical, hatred of the occupier.
A hatred that scores the face of every swallow-burrowed scarp, nourishes the root of every fruit tree, and supercedes all other loyalties and enmities. Even the cops in Maimana call Samaruddin "the shahid": the martyr. Bismillah, a district police chief in whose Maimana suburb of domed clay houses and withering apricot orchards Samaruddin's body was buried. On April 4, after what Samaruddin's supervisors say were three impeccable years of exemplary service, the year-old man was manning a checkpoint outside the border police headquarters, a few dozen paces away from the bridge over the dying river.
Several armored vehicles arrived, delivering American soldiers to train Samaruddin's fellow officers at the headquarters. All of a sudden, Samaruddin leveled his Kalashnikov at the foreigners and opened fire, killing two soldiers. When his rifle clip was empty, he ran off. Two days later, NATO forces tracked him down in southern Maimana, where he was hiding in a friend's house, and shot him dead.