Kabul—In the traditional pose of Afghan men, Abdul Zia sits quietly—squatting down on his haunches close to the ground. But something about Abdul Zia doesn’t look like the rest of the men crouched along the streets of this capital city. Over his Pashtu turban are khaki, military-issue ear warmers. The hood of his dirty, 1970s ski jacket, likely a western cast off, is riddled with holes. His beard is grubby and matted.

His posture carries none of the pride associated with most Afghan men, who hold themselves like warriors. His hands, when they emerge from beneath his thin and ripped shalwar kameez, are mottled and scarred. Between the black dirt lining his fingers, is dried and fresh blood from the wounds caused by the biting, relentless wind. He would wash, if all the water didn’t turn to ice. He is curling himself into the tiniest possible ball, trying desperately to...

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