On a recent patrol in the Zabul province with soldiers of the 1st Battalion 4th Infantry Regiment, I came to understand the fear in the eyes of a child.
I encountered a beautiful young Afghan girl named Salah, 12, who was visibly shocked to see me and a female interpreter walking among the soldiers. When the interpreter first approached her, the young girl jumped back in fear. Seconds later, she slowly came closer to us. “Why were you so afraid?” the interpreter asked.
Salah, whose father was nearby, looked over for permission to speak. He agreed to let her talk to us.
“I was hit many times by the Taliban when they came through here,” she said. “I'm afraid.” Her father replied back “it's true the Taliban hit her many times when they came through.”
They didn't say why the altercation happened but the fear was visible in their eyes.
After speaking with her briefly, I complimented Salah on her beaded pink earrings. Without hesitation, the young, rural farm girl wanted to give them to me. I did not accept them but thanked her for being so kind. I was moved by her gesture and was astonished that a child with so little would be willing to give one of her few possessions.