In the novel, the author describes Laila's family home as having been struck by a rocket and was implied to have been mostly, if not completely, destroyed. What kind of weapon might this have been? What kinds of military rockets that are capable of leveling entire houses were used in Afghan conflicts during the time period described in the book?

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Laila’s house was destroyed in summer 1992, when “there was heavy fighting in West Kabul between the Pashtun forces of the warlord Sayyaf and the Hazaras of the Wahdat faction.” This was at the start of the 1992–1996 Battle of Kabul. Human Rights Watch reported:

Hezb-e Islami forces used artillery and rockets in a manner indicating that they were intentionally targeting civilian areas, failing to properly aim (with respect to artillery guns), recklessly using weapons which could not be aimed in a dense civilian setting (with respect to rockets), and treating the whole city as one unified military target. […] Hekmatyar’s† forces also often used BM-40, BM-22, BM-12 rocket launchers and Sakr Soviet-made rockets in their attacks on Kabul.

Human Rights Watch (2005). Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, founder of Hezb-e-Islami.

The Sakr is an Egyptian-manufactured version of the Soviet BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launcher which fires a rocket with a roughly 20 kg warhead, destructive enough to “turn her house into smoking rubble” as described in A Thousand Splendid Suns.

To give some idea of the size of these rockets, here’s a photo I found of a BM-21 launcher in service with the Taliban in Kabul, four or five years after the date of the destruction of Laila’s house in the novel:

The Taliban in Kabul Courtesy The News

Kamal Matinuddin (1999). The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan, 1994-1997, p. 72. Oxford University Press.

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