ZARANJ, Afghanistan—To escape the Taliban, Mohammad Taher, a soldier in the army of the ousted U.S.-backed Afghan government, fled first through the desert to Pakistan, then dodged gunfire to cross the border into Iran. There, a truck he was riding in—crammed together with other Afghan migrants—slid off a winding road and flipped, leaving him with serious injuries.
After he was discharged from an Iranian hospital, where doctors told him he had fractured two vertebrae, police deported him. It was his second failed attempt to get into Iran. Now he is in this provincial capital in southwestern Afghanistan, struggling to get around in a back-and-neck brace that extends up to his chin.