Ezatullah Nizami Ahmadzai, a young Afghan policeman stationed at a small checkpoint on the outskirts of Kabul, was just sitting down with his compatriots, on Saturday, for iftar, the breaking of the fay-long fast that Muslims observe during Ramadan.

Hardly had they said their short prayers and taken a morsel, when explosions disrupted their moment of spiritual reflection. Their checkpoint had come under attack by Taliban insurgents. Leaving aside the meal, Ahmadzai picked up his weapon and joined his colleagues, all of whom had been fasting all day, to fight the six assailants.

Together, the small band of police officers defeated the insurgents, killing two of them and injuring two others, while the remaining two fled. Ahmadzai though was also killed along with two other policemen.

On Tuesday, another group of Afghan police officers gathered for iftar at another central Kabul checkpoint. If the events of the last few days have shaken their morale, they did not show it.

In groups of five or six, the police officers stood guard monitoring the evening traffic – mostly civilians rushing home for iftar. “They are checking vehicles for traffic violations, and also for suspicious people and activities,” said Major Basir Mujahid, spokesman for the Kabul Police, who was in attendance.

“Cars are being stopped for not having number plates, as well as those cars with tinted black windows that have been recently made illegal.”

As the time for the call to prayer before the end of the fast approached, the police officers retired to a bunker where food was laid out on a sheet on the ground.

Qabili pulao – a dish of meat, rice, carrots and raisin – was sent from the local police district. “It is prepared based on the calories and protein requirements of the soldiers. And the medical officers at the police district test the food every day for quality before it is dispatched to us,” said Mullah Qand, a 28-year-old police officer from Baghlan.

Some of the police officers gathered around the food, waiting to hear the call to prayer, while a few others stood guard outside. “They will break their fast after we are finished, and then we will guard them while they eat and pray,” one of the younger officers said.

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