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"When they test-fire their weapons, I come to collect the brass," said Jawid, a slender boy with dark eyes and wavy hair. A 5.56 mm round from an M16 rifle, about the length of two segments of a pinky finger, fetches one afghani, or about two cents, from the shopkeepers in Dokolam, a border market town a couple of miles down the road, Jawid said. A wide shell from an automatic grenade launcher earns him five afghani, or a dime. The big money is in the .50-caliber machine-gun shells, which are about the length of a man's middle finger. Each of them brings in 10 afghani, or 20 cents, on Dokolam's main shopping street.

Some boys trade casings for ice cream or candy. Jawid insists on cash. His parents survive on the little money they make selling milk and yogurt from their herd of five goats, two sheep and a cow, he said. "My family is very poor, so I give them the money," he said.