In a desolate field outside Kabul, an Afghan soldier hunches over a knee-high robot equipped with cameras, multidirectional pincers and tank-treads built for rough terrain.
Carefully, he attaches bottles of water and a explosive charge to the robot. He uses a remote control to guide it 50 meters away to target.
“Explosion! Explosion!” shouts Naqibullah Qarizada in a warning to others nearby. Then he remotely detonates the charge. If all has gone well, the blast has pushed the water into the bomb with enough force to knock out its triggering mechanism.
But to be safe, his partner, Hayatullah, climbs into a heavy protective suit before lumbering over to pluck out the blasting cap.
The two men are among hundreds of Afghan soldiers training to take over the dangerous fight against the war’s biggest killers: Taliban-planted bombs. A few years ago, there were almost no Afghan bomb disposal experts.
Now, there are 369 - but that’s far from enough. The international coalition is rushing to train hundreds more before the exit of most coalition forces.
Known in military parlance as improvised explosives devices, the bombs have long been a favourite Taliban weapon that can be remotely detonated by radio or mobile phone when a target passes by or triggered by pressure, like a vehicle driving over it.