The Child Soldiers

Mukhtar is an infantryman in Afghanistan's rebel army. He can shoot a man in the beard from a standing position at 200 m or point out camouflaged Taliban bunkers through miles of dust. His platoon leader says the green-eyed soldier is the finest he has ever commanded, and Mukhtar takes the compliment with a shrug of his skinny shoulders. "I have been in the army for a long time," he says. "So I should be good at my job." Indeed, Mukhtar is a four-year veteran of Afghanistan's draining desert war. But he is only 15 years old.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!