Return of the Kabuliwala


Indian Nobel Price winning poet Rabindranath Tagore's iconic short story "Kabuliwala"

describes a heart-rending friendship between a Pashtun money lender "Rahamat" and a little girl "Mini", in whom he sees his own daughter back in Kabul. When, after committing a murder, Rahamat was taken to jail, he tells Mini he was going to his father-in-law's house.


After the 9/11 rebuttal by the U.S. in Afghanistan, many Taliban leaders were sent to their father-in-laws' houses, or killed. Over the last two decades, we were lulled into thinking we are rid of the atrocities of the Taliban.


After twenty years of American training of local indigenous defense forces, the Afghan army fell like a house of cards after the withdrawal of American troops. To blame the Afghan Government for this collapse, as President Biden did, is like blaming the South Vietnam for U.S. failure in that region.


This is not the first time U.S. had won the war and lost the peace.

Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan come to mind.


History of American involvement in Afghanistan is worth examining.

Prior to 1979, Afghanistan was a society marred by constant internal strife and infighting.

Then, the Soviet Union invaded the country by sending its troops and occupying the region.

Russian government had grand plans to expand its territory into Afghanistan.


President Jimmy Carter quickly responded by withdrawing U.S. from the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Brezhnev countered by saying "so what?"


The Soviet-Afghan engagement during 1979- 1989 period, drew U.S. into the region.

Based on 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' doctrine, U.S. backed and armed Afghan insurgent groups including the Taliban against the Russian invasion. After Russian withdrawal from the hornet's nest in 1989, and following a period of uncertainty, the Taliban gained full control of the country in 1996. During their rule between 1996 and 2001, Afghanistan became the home of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. Osama bin laden was emboldened to attack America from here. Visual images of ill treatment of women and children, harboring of international terrorists operations, and cruel implementation of Sharia Islamic law are still in our collective memories.


Given this history, most Americans have the following basic questions:


1) What was the logic in pulling completely out of a dangerous place like Afghanistan at this time? The irony is that we still have military presence in South Korea, Iraq, and around Vietnam.

2) Why was the pullout so deficient in planning and executing safe transportation of all U.S. civilians and Afghan supporters before our departure?

The excuse that we did not think the Taliban would act so fast is ridiculous.


3) Why did the U.S. broker a deal with the Taliban, the perpetrator of all problems in Afghanistan?

Neighboring countries of Pakistan, India and China have long experienced the challenges of dealing with the Taliban.


4) Why did the U.S. go alone on this withdrawal step without proper consensus of our allies?

We blame the previous President Trump for his go alone foreign policy. What has changed now?


5) How did we not expect Taliban releasing all terrorists from the jails?


6) Why do we not have a full list of our Afghan enablers, whereas the Taliban seem to know who they are?


There is only one possible explanation.


Back in 1947, the British Government got tired of dealing with the "India problem". They made a hasty and messy exit leaving India to suffer internal strife, anarchy, and chaos.

Now, the American Presidents, (both Republican and Democrat) orchestrated an exit from Afghanistan without preparation because they did not want to deal with the "Afghan problem"anymore.


Let us hope Tagore's "Kabuliwalla" offers a solution.


When Rahamat returned from extended imprisonment seeking Mini, he was expecting to see a little girl. Instead he found a grown up lady who hardly recognized him.


Let us hope that, the grown up Afghanistan, will not recognize the Taliban.

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