KALPANI BASE, Pakistan (AP) -- The wind was howling and the snow outside their bullet-pocked bunker lay knee-deep as the men of the 20th Lancer armored regiment bedded down for the night, nearly 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) up a mountain on one of the world's most inhospitable borders.
Pakistan has lost more than 3,000 soldiers in battles with Taliban since it deployed soldiers to its western border, more than all the foreign deaths in Afghanistan since 2001. Although it sees India to its east as its biggest military challenge, it regards its Afghan flank to the west as critical enough to warrant stationing 130,000 soldiers there.
The base called Kalpani is on the front line in the 10-year war against militant Islamists, a war that allies Pakistan with the U.S. and NATO in an uneasy, distrustful partnership. Pakistan feels scapegoated for the coalition's failures in Afghanistan. At the same time it is accused of playing a double game, fighting the militants it chooses to fight while giving others haven and logistical support for their actions in Afghanistan.
Last month the army took an unprecedented step, allowing an Associated Press writer and photographer to follow Pakistani troops on their front-line rounds for a glimpse inside its fight against militants in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. [23 photos total]

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1
A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment stands atop the 8000-foot mountain during a patrol near his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment gather before a patrol atop the 8000-foot mountain near their outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, stands on the 8000-foot mountain near his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, makes his way to his position atop the 8000-foot mountain near his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment stands guard atop the 8000-foot mountain at his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment stands next to a map of the Maidan district on the 8000-foot mountain at his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment patrol atop an 8000-foot mountain near their outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, carry supplies up the 8000-foot mountain near their outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment carry supplies up the 8000-foot mountain near their outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, patrols near his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan borde on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, carries chicken for their dinner atop the 8000-foot mountain near their outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, stands guard atop the 8000-foot mountain at his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, carries a kerosene lamp also used as a heater to his position atop the 8000-foot mountain at his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army Captain Imran Tanvir, right, of the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, meets with members of a village defense council at Kalpani Base atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, shout "long live Pakistan" before returning to their outpost, Kalpani Base, atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, pray before starting a patrol from their outpost Kalpani Base atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldier Rizaldan Igbal, right, with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, uses a field telephone at a police station atop the 8000-foot mountain near his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, lights a cigarette after dinner with his colleagues at the Kalpani Base atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment melt snow for drinking water at the Kalpani Base atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, gather after dinner at Kalpani Base atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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The boots of Pakistani Army soldiers with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, are lined up as the soldiers gather for dinner at the Kalpani Base atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army radio operator Asef Imran, with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, maintains the radio station at the Kalpani Base atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #
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Pakistani Army soldier Ramzan, with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment, says his evening prayers in his sleeping quarters at the Kalpani Base atop an 8000-foot mountain in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (AP / Anja Niedringhaus) #

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