There is a little girl in the Meir Wais hospital with livid scars and dead skin across her face, an obscene map of brown and pink tissue. Then there is another girl, a beautiful child, Khorea Horay, grimacing in pain, her leg amputated, her life destroyed after her foot was torn to pieces. In another ward, two girls lie on their backs, a tent above their limbs. One has lost an arm, another – a 16-year-old – a leg.
Then there is the grim young man with the beard, also in the darkest pain, who looks at me with suspicion and puzzlement. He has a bullet wound in the abdomen, a great incision sutured up after the doctors found it infected. Two other young men, also bearded, cowled in brown “patu” shawls, sit beside this suffering warrior. They, too, stare at me as if I am a visitor from Mars. Perhaps that’s what I am in Kandahar. Better to be a Martian than a Westerner in a city which in all but name has fallen to the Taliban.