BROKEN HEARTS, LOST MINDS, AND MISSING LIMBS - IN AFGHANISTAN, THE FRONTLINE IS EVERYWHERE
Above: Amputees take a break from exercise at the International Committee of the Red Cross Orthopedic Center in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 2012.
We stand by the bed of Mohamad Doad in the paraplegic ward of Kabul’s International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Orthopedic Center.
Aziz Ahmad, my Afghan colleague, translates Mohamad’s grievances.
“He says he hates American soldiers,” Aziz tells me.
“Why does he hate the US?” I ask. “He’s a policeman. The US trained him to fight the Taliban.”
“He says he saw three families killed by coalition forces. If he gets better, he says he will kill American forces himself.”
“But he’s willing to speak with me?”
“So he can remember your face, he says, and kill you when he is well.”
Eleven-year-old Mariam, who lost a leg after stepping on a landmine, rests after physical therapy.
Mohamad, who is 23 but looks no older than 14, was shot by the Taliban last spring. Across the hall is an examination and exercise room where recent amputees learn to operate their new prosthetic limbs. Most of these patients have lost a hand or leg to land mines or rocket-propelled grenades—some of them as long ago as the 1979 Russian invasion, others in the more recent fighting between American troops and the Taliban.
I wedge my pen between the pages of my notepad and consider Mohamad. I am an American reporter. Aziz and I have worked together in Afghanistan since 2004. On this trip, I am reporting on the consequences of more than 30 years of war by spending time with a handful of its victims.
I arrived in early July and stayed through August. I had hoped to come earlier, but Aziz warned me in an email that, at the time, I would not be safe. In January, just six months before my arrival, a video surfaced showing US Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. A month later, US troops burned dozens of copies of the Koran, sparking days of deadly riots across the country and attacks on American forces. Then, in March, a US soldier was charged with shooting to death 16 civilians after entering their homes in Kandahar province. US officials apologized for the incident, but their remorse failed to quell protests and attacks that killed at least 30 people, including six US soldiers. And in the weeks before I arrived, the Pentagon reported increasing numbers of American-trained Afghan police recruits turning their guns on US soldiers.
“This is not a good time for you to visit,” Aziz had said when he picked me up at Kabul International Airport. “Everyone is very angry with America.”