(CNN) – Day one in a prison that might just set you free. These new arrivals are heroin addicts beginning rehab. Delivered by desperate families, or grabbed by police from the street. Men who’ve hit rock bottom on Afghanistan’s biggest export.
The razors are bare, cigarettes and phones are banned, in the coldest turkey imaginable, but take a step back here, as there’s one big oddity. They’re getting rehab in what was just months ago a NATO military base. Walls built to keep the Taliban out, now keep addicts in.
The NATO campaign left chaos in its wake, but also many sprawling bases like this, places the afghan army simply hasn’t got the money to maintain properly or use. So there must be some sense of comfort that the exorbitant cost of the NATO campaign here, that didn’t really dent the problem of heroin in Afghanistan, can at least be used to help ordinary afghans. Withdrawal can be deadly.
Here, what once cost armies millions, like fiber optic wiring, can kill. The most desperate patients trying to hang themselves from it or even burn down their rooms. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes they just shiver.
Yet even in the wreckage of America’s longest war, money is limited. They just let out as many patients each day as they let in. Back into a country with its own sense of withdrawal, where the west’s departure has left poverty and the despair of the unknown.