Over the past four decades, Afghanistan has been in an almost constant state of warfare or internal conflict - enduring Soviet occupation, the rule of the Taliban and a Western-backed authority.

As leaderships and ideologies have changed, loyalties also have fragmented.

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But in the remote Jegdaleki region in the Hindu Kush mountains, life for one group of people has continued largely undisturbed.

For generations these tough, resilient villagers have risked life and limb, to mine deep into the barren earth in pursuit of prized red rubies.

These jewels are then illicitly traded across the border to Peshawar, Pakistan, to be cut and polished. From there, they are sold all over the world, adorning royalty and the wealthy.

But as foreign troops withdraw and the Taliban’s presence spreads, Jegdalek’s ruby miners are drawing attention.

Generations of men have lived and died for the wealth buried in the jagged mountains of Sappar, Afghanistan, chasing crystal dreams with dynamite and pick axes.

With the country almost entirely dependent on foreign aid, the precious rubies have become a potential windfall for the government but most of the gems are smuggled out to Pakistan to be processed and sold abroad.

Forces within the country, lured by the temptation of wealth, have begun to compete for control of the mines.

Attempts have been made by the central government to harness the mining of the rubies and other interested parties are not far behind them.

101 East examines the lives of Afghanistan’s ruby miners and the lure of the red crystals as the country approaches an uncertain and turbulent future.

As foreign troops withdraw and the Taliban return, competing forces are fighting to control Afghanistan's rubies, while the miners risk their lives for red crystal dreams @AJ101East #crystaldreams

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Source: Al Jazeera