Abdulrashid starts by describing to me an idyllic scene from this past March: As the last snows were melting in his village in northern Afghanistan, friends and family gathered in his three-room house to celebrate his sister’s wedding. This was in Faryab province, considered to be among the more peaceful areas in Afghanistan. While the war has raged in the south and the east, Faryab has escaped relatively unharmed.
In Afghan tradition, the wedding guests were dressed in their best and dining on an expansive buffet. At about 8 p.m., Abdulrashid’s wife stepped away to a quiet spot near the window to breast-feed their 2 1/2-year-old son.
And the idyll was suddenly shattered.
Helicopters were heard overhead, and then a voice shouted in Dari that everyone should come outside, walking backward. But before the guests could get out the door — I learn now to my utter surprise that the bride was 12 years old and the groom, the brother of Abdulrashid’s wife, was 14 — the house was full of soldiers, women and men. Abdulrashid could not tell their nationalities; some were Afghan and “some not,” he said, but they were “heavy with equipment.”
Then two explosions ripped through the house. Abdulrashid can’t say what caused them — bombs fired from a drone (prevalent in the area at the time) or an aircraft, or grenades tossed from the ground — but he is clear that “they destroyed two rooms” and wounded his youngest sister as well as the bride. The explosions, he says, were followed by shots fired from the outside, through the window.
Abdulrashid’s wife, Jamila, was hit. The child at her breast, Naquibullah, was struck in the neck and the abdomen and killed instantly. Jamila had a wound in her arm that gushed blood, and she was taken on a helicopter to a medical facility. Today, Jamila cannot use her arm.
Abdulrashid says his uncle, Baba Nazar, was also killed in this joint operation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan National Security Forces. Afghans call these dreaded counterinsurgency operations, conducted by surprise and under the cover of darkness, “night raids.” In April, one month after this incident, the United States agreed to hand control over these raids to Afghan forces.
The ISAF, a U.N.-mandated international force under NATO control, was created in 2001. Part of its broad mission is to help the Afghan government “reduce the capability and will of the insurgency.”