55-year-old Dost Mohammad Salangi recites poetry as he leads a group of men to a look-out post north of the Afghan capital Kabul.
He’s one of the hundreds of former "mujahideen" fighters and civilians taking up arms to fight the growing Taliban insurgency, as foreign troops leave the country.
"We do not wish that any of our brothers (Taliban) would be killed, but if they impose war on us, oppress us and encroach on women and people's property, even our seven-year-old children will be armed and will stand against them because their fight is not jihad but power-seeking."
U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO said they would pull out the roughly 10,000 foreign troops still in Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
The 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York that prompted the mission.
The United Nations envoy for Afghanistan said this week the Taliban had taken more than 50 out of 370 districts and was positioned to control provincial capitals.
Armed mainly with old assault rifles, pistols and grenade launchers, men like Salangi have joined local shopkeepers and traders as part of a loosely-formed Public Uprising Force trying to reclaim some of those areas.
A spokesman for the Afghan defense and security forces said Afghans keen to take up arms against the Taliban were being absorbed intro the structure of territorial army forces.
But some political analysts warn of the growing risk of a return to civil war as more groups took up arms.