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FORWARD OPERATING BASE LARZAB, Afghanistan — Even if it’s dirty and hot and hard to get to, it’s still home for U.S. troops.

Troops in the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry’s 3rd Platoon have been stationed at this remote base for more than a week, patrolling the rugged mountainsides and sweating under the hot Afghanistan sun.

They say they’ve grown rather fond of the region, despite the toll even a short walk up and down the hilly terrain takes on them.

The area has been problematic for coalition and Afghan forces. On July 16, a U.S. soldier was killed in a firefight a few miles from the base, and Taliban are still known to be operating in the nearby mountains.

But U.S. officials say they have made progress in the area, where Taliban militants once roamed freely.

Over the last few months units within Task Force Warrior have established an Afghan National Army Base here, pushed the militants back into the mountains and met with villagers to build relationships, U.S. officials say.

On Monday, members of the 3rd Platoon performed their typical patrols of the area. Although they saw no contact with enemy fighters, they did learn more about where they’re hiding and the terrain of the valley. Sgt. William Cumbie leads a line of U.S. and coalition troops up a hillside near Forward Operating Base Larzab. Troops said they typically walk several miles a day to secure the area, often changing elevation by several thousand feet as they wander up and down the mountainside. During a morning patrol, Sgt. Jeff. Griffin crosses an untilled field where a goat forages. Airman 1st Class Gary Demmons surveys a field as an Afghan boy looks on. Platoon leader Lt. Nathan Shields waits for enemy reaction after U.S. forces fire a mortar. Canadian soldiers accompanying the U.S. troops pass through a poppy field less than a mile from Forward Operating Base Larzab. Officials say most of the locals claim the crops are grown for "personal use," but most grown in the area are done so on large fields, capable of producing a significant amount of narcotics. Soldiers cross through a farmer’s fields on the way to a nearby ridgeline. A mortar round strikes a mountainside after U.S. forces learn that Taliban may be operating on a nearby ridgeline.

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