To view a slide show featuring images of naan , Afghans, and more, click here .

After almost three intense hours at a dusty police checkpoint in the middle of a desert, it was time for a second breakfast. The soft warm naan from the morning had become stiff and dry by then. Chewing and swallowing the dusty bread seemed like starting your own war within you, especially on a dry and humid morning. Even water was no help, because the plastic bottle had heated up in the morning sun and the once-cold water was now about 75 degrees.

But nothing bothered the Afghans. The soldiers turned on the radio in their trucks (a Pashto wedding song loudly played from the speakers), spread the bread on the seats of the truck, and tore pieces from the big loaf. No peanut butter or jelly. I ran to the Land Rover and came back with three small tubes of Vegemite, butter, and a packet of cold vegetable chili.

The Afghans did not appreciate the Vegemite--I was little hesitant myself until my colleague Graeme Wood told me about its rich vitamin content--and ate the naan without anything on it. It wasn't quite the poached egg and sausage breakfast I was getting used to at the main military base, but it definitely killed the urge to whine about cafeteria meals.

On another day, I had dry naan with Afghan soldiers when we visited a checkpoint on one of the highways, where members of the Afghan National Police were enjoying the breeze inside a tent right by the roadside. It was lunchtime after a morning of patrol on the highway.

One of the policemen brought a big pot covered with a lid and placed it in the middle of the circle, where about 10 or 12 men were gathered for their lunch. Another policeman spread a very thin and dirty piece of cloth on the floor, and threw loaves of naan in front of each person as if distributing cards. That time, the naan had some company: the policeman brought bowls of cold goat milk with a huge lump of ice and a ladle right to the plates, where they piled spoonfuls of okra cooked with tomatoes and cumin.

As the locals happily started their lunch, I watched the British soldiers around me tear the bread, dip it in okra, and make an honest effort to chew and swallow the bread with comfort. The locals did it with ease, I noticed, everyone drinking the cold goat milk from the same ladle. There was almost a rhythm to the way they were eating--four chews, one sip, four chews. Four chews, one sip, four chews. Four chews, one sip, four chews. And then a loud gratifying belch. An odd but original way to spend my birthday.

That evening, I was waiting in the queue at the dining facility in the British Army camp in Lashkar Gah when I noticed the unthinkable--loaves of naan and poppadum on the dinner line. The British dining facility, which was mostly run by Sri Lankan cooks, had a hint of South Asian dishes everyday. Fortunately, the naan here came with scrumptious company. I scooped two big spoonfuls of lamb curry from the line onto my plate, grabbed two loaves of naan and some steamed vegetables and headed straight down the dinner table. I could not have had a better birthday dinner, especially in a war zone.

The young Afghan soldier was right. There is no morning, afternoon, or evening in Afghanistan without naan. Does not matter if you are a soldier, politician, or even a Taliban--naan is always part of the meal.

"And that's the only thing we have in common with the Taliban," an Afghan interpreter told me with a grin. "Neither the soldiers nor the Taliban will start their day without a naan."

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Photo by Anup Kaphle


Members of the Afghan National Army regularly go out on patrols with British troops in Helmand province, one of the most troubled regions in Afghanistan. In the photo above, an Afghan soldier gets ready for the early morning patrol.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


Afghans are known for their love for tea. Inside the military base, soldiers boil water in a huge pot, which is mostly used to serve tea to the guests as well as the soldiers.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


Forget bacon and egg sandwiches. Afghan police and soldiers usually leave for morning patrols with loaves of naan and watermelons.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


Lashkar Gah's streets are full of small shops like these where young boys sell fresh naan every day.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


The shape, size, and even the ingredients of these naans vary from one shop to another. The fresher the naan, the tastier it is.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


The Afghan bread is a staple in every household. Above, an Afghan kid from Lashkar Gah walks home after purchasing a naan in the bazaar.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


The Afghans usually sit around a circle for their meal. At a police check post in Lashkar Gah, members of the Afghan National Police throw naans on a thin cloth placed in the middle of a circle.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


The bread is often dry by the time people eat their lunch. Usually two or three individuals tear from the big loaf that is placed in front of them.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


The British forces and the Afghan police work closely with locals in the Lashkar Gah area, some of whom often join them for lunch.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


Most--if not all--Afghan policemen work, eat, and sleep in their check posts. Above, two Afghan policemen enjoy their first meal of the day after a long patrol.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


Despite accusations of corruption and inability to fight the Taliban, the Afghan police is trying to win the hearts of locals. They regularly meet with the elders and tribal leaders in the community to hear their concerns.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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12.jpg

Photo by Anup Kaphle


Mostly overworked and underpaid, members of the Afghan National Police often complain about their living conditions and facilities. Above, a policeman who recently joined the team enjoys his lunch.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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13.jpg

Photo by Anup Kaphle


Lunch is a time for the policemen to relax. The fear of coming under attack by the Taliban keeps them vigilant outside their check posts day and night.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


Above, an Afghan policeman enjoys his lunch after a midday training at a check point on a highway in Lashkar Gah.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


Nothing beats the heat like a chilled bowl of goat milk with a lump of ice thrown into it. At this check post in Lashkar Gah, Afghan policemen share the ladle to drink the milk.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


The bread becomes so dry by lunchtime that people sip the milk after almost every bite.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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17.jpg

Photo by Anup Kaphle


Watermelon is a popular fruit in Afghanistan. On hot summer afternoons, the policemen finish at least five or six watermelons throughout the day.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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18.jpg

Photo by Anup Kaphle


Members of the Afghan police often take watermelons from the farmers who are passing by the check points. Many farmers complain that the police demand these fruits from them and do not pay them.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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Photo by Anup Kaphle


The policemen finish plenty of watermelons during the day, most of which they get from farmers passing by the police check point.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
20 OF 21
20.jpg

Photo by Anup Kaphle


Afghanistan's watermelons are known for their sweet juicy flavors. Above, Afghan farmers line up in the bazaar early morning to sell their watermelons.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.
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21.jpg

Photo by Anup Kaphle


Afghan farmers also grow high quality of peaches, apricots, and other vegetables, which they bring to the local bazaar in Lashkar Gah for sale.
Anup Kaphle tastes the many faces of
The National Bread of Afghanistan
as he travels with British and Afghan soldiers.