In eastern North Carolina, the Masts, an Army Ranger and his wife, are raising a little Afghan girl they call L. as their own. In Texas, a young Afghan couple are waiting for the day when they can bring home R., the name the girl’s parents gave her before they were killed by U.S. forces. The couple, relatives of the dead parents, have filed suit against the Masts, alleging conspiracy, fraud, and false imprisonment of the child.

How did it come to this? Rozina Ali investigates:

What helped the Masts succeed was a set of assumptions that for many have become accepted truths: that those we kill abroad in the dead of night are terrorists, that Islam is inherently dangerous, that the courts are inherently just, that prosperity confers morality. In all the time that politicians, religious leaders, lawyers and federal and local government officials sought to help the Masts obtain custody of this baby, no one took seriously the possibility that she might have a family, and that they might care for her, too. Despite the rumors that spread through Bagram that fall, L. was not without a past or loved ones. She had relatives, and one day, they were located.

This is the story of a baby girl who was rescued by Americans in a battlefield they helped create. Ultimately, this is a story about the fictions we tell ourselves about the 20 years we spent in Afghanistan. “It’s the complete collapse of rule of law that allowed this abduction to happen,” Sehla Ashai, one of the lawyers who would go on to represent the baby’s relatives, told me. “And it didn’t happen in Afghanistan — it happened in America.”