By Micah Garen

Featured in Newsweek

On a routine May 2010 “presence patrol” to the dusty bazaar just outside a Marine base called Camp Hill, in the Afghan area of Marja, about two dozen soldiers of Col. Brian Christmas’s company come across an artillery shell, wires poking from it, hidden under empty yellow plastic containers at the back of a small shop—the simple ingredients for an improvised explosive device. A few steps away, the Marines narrowly miss stepping on a pressure plate, rigged to explode a second buried bomb. The shop owner next door tells the Marines that the half-dozen stalls next to his were used by the Taliban once but have been unoccupied for about a month. The experience is typical for Marja, a rural community in the southwest of the country where American soldiers are battling with the Taliban for the hearts and minds of everyday Afghans…

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