Image: Stephen Dupont

They both apologised repeatedly. That's what struck me. With the 2016 fighting season on again in the deadly Afghan conflict that has been a constant since 2001, they were busy. I had tried to get in touch with two former Afghan colleagues, both journalists and translators, I had worked with from 2005 until 2008. Both of them, Aleem and Bilal, had been more friends than employees for a foreign journalist. They had guided me through the intricacies of Afghan society. Sometimes it was who you had to bribe to get a visa extension, sometimes it was where not to go, sometimes it was as simple as “get down now” in the back of a clapped-out Toyota to avoid the Taliban watching the road. Both working journalists themselves, they had been busy this last week.