In Dexter Filkins’s latest dispatch from Afghanistan, an American foot patrol enters a village near Kandahar to find three men sitting on a blanket, listening to music on a radio:
‘So, seen any Taliban lately?’ Lieutenant Holloway asked the men.
‘We haven’t seen the Taliban in eight months,’ a man named Niamatullah said, looking up.
‘Do you ever see anyone moving through here at night?’ Lieutenant Holloway asked.
‘We don’t go outside at night,’ said Mr. Niamatullah, who, like many Afghans, uses one name. ‘When we do, you guys search us and hold us for hours. And you never find anything.’
Lieutenant Holloway shook his head.
‘The last person we stopped in this village, we held for 20 minutes,’ the lieutenant said. ‘We never detain anyone.’
‘We are afraid of you,’ Mr. Niamatullah said.
‘Is there a Taliban curfew?’ Lieutenant Holloway asked.
‘Only a man with a white shawl is allowed outside at night,’ Mr. Niamatullah said.
‘A white shawl?’ Lieutenant Holloway squinted.
Mr. Niamatullah did not offer to explain.
‘But he has no gun, so you cannot detain him.’
After several minutes, Lieutenant Holloway gave up.
‘Everybody knows something,’ Lieutenant Holloway said, walking away, ‘But no one tells us anything.’