Once upon a time, in a bleak stretch of Afghan desert, American engineers oversaw the largest development program in Afghanistan's history, constructing two huge earthen dams, 300 miles of irrigation canals and 1,200 miles of gravel roads.
The settlement served as the headquarters of a sweeping American Cold War effort to wean Afghans from Soviet influence in the 1950s. Afghans called it "Little America."
The families lived in white stucco homes. The men wore coats and ties, and the women dressed as they did back home, with knee-length skirts. There was a clubhouse where the adults played cards and drinks were served by a Filipino bartender.
The kids played tennis, attended a co-ed school and escaped the heat by frolicking along the banks of the Helmand River. There were cottages in the mountains for weekend getaways, where the men would hunt gazelle and the kids would play games and sing.
The project soon lost its innocence with an unforseen by-product: deadly poppy blooms harvested for opium. Afghanistan currently produces 85% of the world's opium, the key ingredient in heroin. Now over 1 million Afghans – around 3% of the population – have an opium or heroin habit.