from a journal written when I spent five weeks in Kabul during the summer of 2005 consulting with an Afghan company that was developing an educational TV network
I just spent my fifth day in
The first views of
You exit through the waiting room with beautifully detailed wood paneled walls and ceiling that if restored could be one of the most stunning airport lobbies in the world. A crowd of people 5-6 deep hangs outside the gates. No parking garages. No drive up. No snack bar. You carry your bags 50 yards to the gate, hoping your driver will spot you.
A dozen guards anxiously grip their AK47 automatic rifles. This will become a familiar sight. The AK47 is the
My favorite is General Nabi (Afghan Army retired), who watches after the CEO, an Afghan-American, visiting this week. The General is ultimate cool. A relaxed, stocky 30-something guy with a blood-orange goatee and mop top of curly hair, he sports a custom bullet-proof vest with 20 pockets holding who knows what. A cell phone headset hangs from one ear. With a 9mm pistol strapped to his right leg, he carries his AK with the aplomb of a
He has the friendliest, impish smile, a Bill Clinton handshake, and always stumbles through a few kind English words. In 2001 General Nabi led a battalion of
On the subject of violence.
There has never been a violent event in the company in the four years of its existence. Though there was one murder three days ago, it was a huge exception; the first in a year or so, and a very shoddy deed by a mad man. A native pointed out that in
Though not reported in the news in the
The Russians, the Afghan civil war and the Taliban were horribly, viciously cruel to the people here, and the Americans and coalition allies have provided them with peace and safety unknown for a generation. The Russians, warlords and Taliban destroyed the country’s infrastructure for thirty years; water, electricity, roads, libraries, schools, hospitals, theaters, nearly everything of value. They murdered one or more members of nearly every single Afghan family. The scars run very, very, very deep here. They are on every street corner.
The Afghans lived through a debasing horror most Americans simply cannot grasp. And so the Afghans are deeply and humbly and optimistically grateful. Don’t be swayed by the scare stories in the media. The last thing the mass media wants to report is a nice quiet night in
The real story here is how the poor cope with their destroyed society and work with almost nothing to re-build lives, to recover from three lost decades and a million and a half loved ones. It will take much, much more than the occasional murder to slow them down. And if the