Afghan Children Caught in the Crossfire

This week I was struck by a quick, 100-word article in my local paper.  Afghan Children Caught in the Crossfire was the headline.  One of the many results of my embed with the Minnesota National Guard in southeastern Afghanistan is I am now more aware.  Travel does this.  Learning does this.  Meeting new people in new places does this.  I am more aware.

This headline from the Washington Post will fade.  Sadly, the children killed and the families affected experience this all too often.  What’s different about this story is how personal it is to me.  I was in Shah Joy with the Agribusiness Development Team in Zabul.  Was I in this specific village?  I do not know.  Did I see any of the children that were killed?  I do not know know, probably not.  However, the scene described in the Post article is familiar.

U.S., NATO and some ANA, or ANP Soldiers arrive in a village.  They arrive in a village to offer assistance, they arrive in a village to gather information, they arrive in a village in full-armor, with security forces, the hope is they do not need any of what they bring.  They want to meet with Elders.  If all goes well the children gather.  They are everywhere.  They are asking for pens, they are asking for chocolate.  The children try to touch the Soldiers.  The children laugh, they play, some may toss rocks.  Those who toss rocks are disciplined.  The ANA, or ANP are notified.

After 15 or 20 minutes the scene becomes a little overwhelming.  There are so many kids.  The kids are not that well-behaved, but what can you do?  I liken it to neighbor kids acting up while their parents are nearby.  The parents aren’t disciplining so what place do you have?  None.  I just ended up grinning and trying to bare it.  All while thinking about my own kids and how fortunate they are.

The Shura is taking place.  Elders are speaking.  Interpreters are trying to keep up.  Soldiers are listening and trying to get a word in edge-wise.  It’s chaotic.  Chai is served.  The security force has set up a perimeter.  Radios crackle with instruction.  I break away with CPT Foley, two security forces, an Interpreter and a Villager.  This is where my experience stops.  I cannot fathom what would result if we took fire from insurgents.  I was completely aware that this was a possibility; we were prepared, I knew the ADT knew how to react.  I am so glad this is knowledge I didn’t need to use.

These photos have been posted before; but I want to distribute them again.  These are the faces of Afghanistan’s future.