Just read a long-form article in the New Yorker, about the war in Afghanistan – what locals call “the American war” – from the perspective of a rural woman. The article is excellent – probably the best I’ll read this year – but absolutely devastating. Content warning for everything you’d expect, including many deaths, including of children.
Dado went even further. In March, 2003, U.S. soldiers visited Sangin’s governor—Dado’s brother—to discuss refurbishing a school and a health clinic. Upon leaving, their convoy came under fire, and Staff Sergeant Jacob Frazier and Sergeant Orlando Morales became the first American combat fatalities in Helmand. U.S. personnel suspected that the culprit was not the Taliban but Dado—a suspicion confirmed to me by one of the warlord’s former commanders, who said that his boss had engineered the attack to keep the Americans reliant on him. Nonetheless, when Dado’s forces claimed to have nabbed the true assassin—an ex-Taliban conscript named Mullah Jalil—the Americans dispatched Jalil to Guantánamo. Unaccountably, this happened despite the fact that, according to Jalil’s classified Guantánamo file, U.S. officials knew that Jalil had been fingered merely to “cover for” the fact that Dado’s forces had been “involved with the ambush.”
The incident didn’t affect Dado’s relationship with U.S. Special Forces, who deemed him too valuable in serving up “terrorists.” […]
The “terrorists” were essentially any men – completely innocent men included – our allies could grab and turn over to the US in exchange for a bounty.
In 2004, the U.N. launched a program to disarm pro-government militias. A Ninety-third commander learned of the plan and rebranded a segment of the militia as a “private-security company” under contract with the Americans, enabling roughly a third of the Division’s fighters to remain armed. Another third kept their weapons by signing a contract with a Texas-based firm to protect road-paving crews. (When the Karzai government replaced these private guards with police, the Ninety-third’s leader engineered a hit that killed fifteen policemen, and then recovered the contract.) The remaining third of the Division, finding themselves subjected to extortion threats from their former colleagues, absconded with their weapons and joined the Taliban. […]
It was now 2005, four years after the American invasion, and Shakira had a third child on the way. Her domestic duties consumed her—“morning to night, I was working and sweating”—but when she paused from stoking the tandoor or pruning the peach trees she realized that she’d lost the sense of promise she’d once felt. Nearly every week, she heard of another young man being spirited away by the Americans or the militias. Her husband was unemployed, and recently he’d begun smoking opium. Their marriage soured. An air of mistrust settled onto the house, matching the village’s grim mood.
So when a Taliban convoy rolled into Pan Killay, with black-turbanned men hoisting tall white flags, she considered the visitors with interest, even forgiveness. This time, she thought, things might be different.