I didn't like what was being done with that girl and with other children depicted in the pictures from the 2012 NATO campaign, such as this photograph of a Canadian officer teaching kids a game in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. I knew, for example, that we wouldn't use the image of the girl with the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan or other Islamic countries to demonstrate our accomplishments because it displayed the soles of the child's shoes, which, for those who don't remember President George W. Bush dodging a flying shoe in Baghdad, is considered an insulting gesture across the Muslim world. So, as a means of political communications, the image was effectively moot. She made us feel good, and that was all. And if we weren't thinking through the images we used to portray our actions, then we probably weren't really thinking about how we portray children, particularly those in conflict regions.
To be clear, I don't have anything against photographing children under normal situations or integrating them into effective political communications, and I admire the heroic and critical work of combat camera crews. My point is, we need to be much more careful how and when we use those images so that we don't exploit children.