The Soviet Air Force is launching dawn strikes almost daily against villages in Nangarhar Province, where Afghan Islamic fighters are now in total control of the countryside near the provincial capital of Jalalabad.
On Tuesday, I was caught in an hour-long aerial bombardment of a rebel center -- a collection of mudwalled buildings on the edge of a ravine less than a day's climb from the mountainous frontier with Pakistan. It was the second attack on Torabora in two weeks.
It began at 5 a.m. and was led by two Soviet MI8 helicopters followed by four Mig23 jets.
On the outskirts of Jalalabad three days earlier, I watched at least 16 Soviet helicopters, including MI24 gunships -- the most modern, powerful assault helicopters in the Soviet arsenal -- send more than 100 rockets smashing into houses, shops and a mosque.
There was in apparent reprisal for the killing of four Soviet soldiers and an Afghan electrical linesman by rebel snipers. Two of the Soviets were shot dead while swimming in the city's canal last Thursday, and the other two died trying to protect the linesman as he attempted to restore power to the city after rebel saboteurs had toppled a main pylon. A Soviet tank on the scene proved useless against the guerrillas, although it repeatedly fired into the bushes.
The helicopter attack outside Jalalabad caused only three injuries and the strike at Torabora hurt no one, although some rebel buildings were badly damaged.
The first warning of an impending attack was the throb of helicopter engines. The rebels immediately moved to take up positions on the sides of the ravine. Without ground-to-air missiles their best hope for destroying the helicopter is to get above it and fire down upon it.
Some men motioned for me to take cover in a small room perched on top of the flat-roofed building, but it seemed more sensible to get away from the probable target where the Soviets know that bombs and rockets may be hidden.
In earlier attacks on Torabora, Soviet pilots had only scored on hit out of five. Craters and unexploded bombs in fields of opium poppies and wheat bore testimony to this.
On Tuesday, however, the Soviet aim had improved.
The small room where I was to have taken cover received a direct hit and was destroyed. The flat roof of the building was also badly damaged.
During the raid, I crouched behind a rock only 12 feet from the building, itching from the bites of bedbugs which infest it, and wishing I had taken cover further away.
From the hillside, the rebels opened fire with Kalashnikou assault rifles, World War I rifles and machine guns.
The first phase of the attack was directly from MI8 helicopters toward buildings some distance away. Then we heard the sound of jets from the next valley. Four MIG23s swooped down and even from behind my rock, I could feel the tremendous physical concussion from the explosions. A jagged piece of bomb casing, weighing about 5 pounds crashed down next to me.
The Soviet jets then changed direction, coming in pairs down the valley toward the rebel center, and each unloaded two bombs. As they screamed overhead, I could see that the bombs dropping out of the sky behind them were losing forward momentum and moving on a curved downward course. They exploded only a few feet away and a pall of brown dust covered everything.
Then the MIG's were gone and the only noises were those of the nearby mountain streams, the buzzing of flies and the fluttering of leaves blown off by the explosions -- an early autumn on a late spring day.
For several minutes, no one moved. Then, high on top of the ravine, two Afghan rebels emerged to assess the damage. Others gradually crawled out from cover and the center came back to life.