About Me

Note that this article was first published in the New York Times and if you reproduce this article you must retain this notice.

My name is Waheed. I am 22 years old. I work for the US Army as an interpreter, since 2002. I have mostly spent my life in war and conflict. I was born in 1984. During that time our country was invaded by the Soviet Union and from that time fighting started in our country between Mujahideen and Soviet army. After the Soviet army left we had a civil war and then the hard-line Taliban regime. So during these wars we couldn't live in peace. When the Taliban took control over the capital Kabul, my family went to Pakistan. Life was really hard for us there. I couldn't go to school because I had to work hard and to support my family. I only had a little time to learn English in an Afghan refugee English learning center. I was very disapointed at that time. I thought I would not be able to finish my school and it was making me feel very upset. During the Taliban regime the world community forgot our people, but after the 9/11 terrorist attacks they realized that now is the time to fight the terrorists and American troops ousted the Taliban regime and a new wave of hope came to our people.

Like most Afghan refugees, we also came back to Afghanistan and I went back to my school. My father and mother who were jobless in Pakisten got jobs. Before the Taliban regime my father was an officer and my mother was a teacher, so they got their old jobs back and our life started getting better.

I was in 10th grade when I got my job with the US Army. At first I thought I would not pass the interpreting exam, but out of 20 guys, 6 of them passed the exam and I was one of those who passed the exams. I started working as a night shift interpreter because I wanted to finish my school. So finaly I graduated high school in 2004. It was a great moment for me because I could work during the night and study during the day.

I have enjoyed working with the US Army. I have been on over 800 patrols with the US Army to provide security for the Afghans. During these patrols I have meet many people and interpreted between the locals and US Army. We had Afghan green tea with the locals. They were always asking us for tea or food and one of my best patrols was to a refugee camp. It was between two hills. These refugees had just returned from Pakistan. There were more than 50 families and it was the beginning of winter. We went to talk to them about their problems and we found they didn't have any good tents, blankets, food and health care, so our patrol leader wrote down their problems and took it to the base commander. He was a kind commander and he said we will solve their problem. So after one week we went to this refugee camp with medical team, food, blankets, tents and toys for the kids, and they were really happy. I can not forget that moment. They were really happy and they spent a good winter.

We always had a medic with us during patrols, and if the villagers had any basic medical needs, they would come to us and we were ready to help. One day we saw a little girl. Her face was burnt. She belonged to a poor family. Our team immediately acted and treated her face before it got worse, and we were checking up on her twice a week until she healed. These moments are very memorable to me.

I would like to tell the American people that the Afghans are very peaceful and hospitable people. They are tired of war and they want to live free. Some American people think that Afghans aren't peaceful people, but that is not true. Now it is clear to the world community that the Taliban regime was created by Pakistani Intelligence Service ISI and this regime sheltered the terrorists and they made life hard for our people. Most of these fighters were Pakistani and from some other countries. We could not fight them on our own because we had a civil war in our country and we did not have a central government and united army.

So I hope all American people realize this. Sometimes when I have free time I go to some chat rooms and when I tell American people or some other western people that I am Afghan, they don't show their interest to talk to me and some of them call me a terrorist. So I hope they realize the difference.

The situation has been getting better for the past 6 weeks and I hope it gets even better and I hope one day American tourists could come to visit Afghanistan and see the Afghan people for themselves. We have some nice historical places and beautiful mountains and good food. I am sure they will enjoy being here and they will see a good response from us.

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