The Wrong Enemy

One day an Afghan I knew and trusted told me a story he had never dared tell anyone, even his closest family. He had worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military for several years. One night he had accompanied U.S. special operations commandos on a raid. Helicopters dropped off the team a mile or so from their target village, and they hiked in silence to its edge. The unit split up, and the interpreter went with a group of four men to a house in the center of the village. Two men were in front of him and two behind, armed with American assault weapons with silencers attached. They moved without noise, communicating with hand signals. They kicked in the door of the house and entered a room. A gas lamp was burning very low but enough for the interpreter to see the astonished faces of a young couple in their twenties as they leapt up from their bed on the floor. “Why? Why are you shooting?” the man asked. The Americans did not answer. They crouched and shot them both. They fired four or five rounds, the silencers making a dull “tick, tick” sound. As the woman fell, she let out a dying gasp. A child sleeping beside them began to cry. The Americans moved straight on to the next room. The translator began to shake. This time he did not enter the room but stopped at the door. He saw four people by the lamplight. A grandmother stood, her head uncovered, and asked, “What’s happening? Why” Three teenagers, a boy and two girls, were cowering on the floor, wordless, trying to hide among their bedclothes. The Americans did not speak. They fired two or three rounds. The translator did not see who was shot. He was never asked to translate anything. “You have to wait until they ask. If you say anything, or translate anything, they say ‘Shut up, mother-fucker, or I’ll shoot you.’ “

The Wrong Enemy America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014 by Carlotta Gall





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