In Afghanistan's Panjshir Province, former police officers and soldiers scrape together a living by digging emeralds out of the frigid Hindu Kush Mountains.
These men are sifting through piles of stone on the hunt for glistening green emeralds that will eventually adorn jewelry.
The gem-rich Hindu Kush Mountains flank the Mikeni Valley, which lies around 130 kilometers northeast of Kabul, and have been mined systematically since the 1970s.
One of the miners told AFP that he used to head an anti-terrorism unit of the Afghan police. When the Western-backed government collapsed in the face of the Taliban's advance last summer, he tried selling used clothing on the street but says "it didn't work out" and he soon headed to the hills to hunt for emeralds.
Each emerald is sold on-site to dealers for between 50 cents and $1.50. In Western markets, finely cut and polished emeralds can sell for several thousand dollars each.
According to AFP, many former soldiers and policemen have fled to the Hindu Kush Mountains to eke out a living mining emeralds.
The Taliban has publicly proclaimed an amnesty against former servicemen, but human rights groups say many have been executed or have disappeared.
Panjshir Province was the last region to fall to the Taliban last year. Gem hunters in the area say Taliban fighters climbed to the emerald mines and inspected people's hands to identify newcomers whose hands were not calloused by labor and who might be former military or police in hiding.
One of the emerald miners who spoke to AFP says that, despite his background in the security forces for the toppled Western-backed government, the Taliban has invited him to work for the militants on account of his computer skills.
Another miner and former policeman said he would willingly work for the country's new Islamist government if asked. After spending years hunting the Taliban, he now says, "If they call me back to work, I will go."