Mr. Shamsuddin said that the family fled Marja and moved to Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. After they left, the Taliban burned down their old house, he said.
At age 14, Khadija gave birth to daughter, Roqia, a few months later. After waiting the Quranic-stipulated four months and 10 days after Aminullah’s death, Khadija married Mr. Shamsuddin, the youngest brother, in 2015.
Years before, probably when he was around 14, though he is hazy on the dates, Mr. Shamsuddin had begun hanging around the Marines’ base in Marja and quickly picked up English from the troops. Soon they hired him as an interpreter, for the comparatively princely sum of $25 a day.
That job ended when the Marines left Afghanistan in 2013. Today, Mr. Shamsuddin earns $5 a day as a rickshaw driver in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, and is the sole support for both his own growing family and his extended family, with at least half a dozen members.
Gul Juma, Mr. Shamsuddin’ mother, now has only three children left of her 11. Two young sons died of disease, and her 21-year-old son, Hayatullah, also a policeman, was killed in a so-called “blue on blue” or insider attack by a Taliban infiltrator, only a few months before Aminullah’s death.
Mr. Shamsuddin is her last surviving son.
He is proud that he is not, as he put it, “a typical Pashtun man.” When Khadija’s father, his uncle, proposed that Khadija marry him, Mr. Shamsuddin said the decision was up to her.
“We didn’t force her to marry me, although we could have,” he said. “I had the ambition to marry someone else, but she was my brother’s widow, so I had no choice.”