Afghanistan’s rapid fall stuns Claremont restaurateur – Daily Bulletin

The Afghan government was clearly failing in the face of a Taliban offensive. But that its president would one day deliver a speech in support of the nation and flee the next day, paving the way for the Taliban to occupy the capital, Kabul, was turning heads.

Over 7,000 miles away, Nangy Ghafarshad experienced it all like a blow to the body.

“It’s devastating. It is heartbreaking. It’s incredible, ”says Ghafarshad at a table in his restaurant. “It was all such a shock. “

The white-haired Ghafarshad speaks quietly, sometimes with disbelief, of the events in his homeland. We’re at Walter’s, Claremont’s beloved restaurant that he and his 52-year-old wife, Fahima, have owned since 1973. We drink hot green tea on an unusually chilly chilly August morning.

“The losers are the silent Afghan society, which has absolutely nothing to say. Whoever has the gun is in control, ”said Ghafarshad.

Seeing dusty street fighters armed with Taliban rifles in the pomp of the Presidential Palace reminded us of both the incongruity of American yahoos roaming the Senate Chamber or putting their feet on the speaker in the House desk.

Neither group is representative of their country, says Ghafarshad. Because the Taliban are “vicious killers”, the situation here is “a thousand times worse”, he laments.

I ask him what he thinks of the abandonment of the country by the then president, Ashraf Ghani. He chuckles.

“I’m still a soldier,” says Ghafarshad, 80, who served in the Afghan Air Force in the 1960s. “When you are a captain of a ship and your ship sinks, will you leave? your ship first or last?

“How could you not know your army of 300,000 men, none of them want to fight?” How is it possible? The man was a coward.

He laughs, shaking his head. Sometimes I suggest you have to laugh in order not to cry. He says it’s true.

Ghafarshad has nothing good to say about former President Donald Trump, who made a pact with the Taliban last year to end US involvement and was ready to invite terrorists to Camp David . And President Joe Biden, he says, was “naive” in trusting the Taliban and announcing a departure date.

And yet, he doesn’t blame Biden for sending America to pack his bags.

“His decision to leave Afghanistan, I hate to say it, was the right decision,” Ghafarshad said. “We have spent billions. What do we have to show for this? “

This is a sobering question.

Nangy Ghafarshad recounts how quickly Afghanistan fell to the Taliban: “It’s devastating, it’s heartbreaking. It’s a shock to all of us. The Claremont restaurateur left his homeland in 1968 and returned in 2009 for a year to try to help during the American occupation. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

In Ghafarshad’s opinion, we had the best of intentions, but after driving out the Taliban and al-Qaida, we should have allowed a civil war to break out, however bad it might sound. A leader would have emerged with consensual support.

Instead, we engaged in nation building – the very thing we said we wouldn’t do – and tried to squeeze the square peg of modern American-style democratic institutions into the round hole. of an ancient culture.

“Democracy must grow in a country. You can’t impose it on people, ”Ghafarshad explains. “Money can’t buy everything.

I had spent Wednesday to introduce myself and ask for an appointment. Instead, Ghafarshad comes out with a glass of tea, ready to chat. We talk for 90 minutes.

He has some personal experience of the American occupation, and this is where his story gets interesting. In 2009, recruited as a senior cultural advisor to the US Department of Defense, he spent 13 months in his native country.

He was 69 years old, had been established in the United States for a long time, and had not seen Afghanistan for 50 years. The return was a bold thing to do, I told him.

“My family was completely against it,” he admits. “I thought maybe on a small scale I could do something good. “

He had grown up in the capital Kabul and considered himself a city dweller. It was the first time he really saw Afghanistan as a whole. He was greeted with respect by the Afghans, some of whom knew his last name, but he was amazed at how backward the country was.

In one village, the warriors believed they were still fighting the Soviets, who had left 20 years earlier. Some thought the Americans were going to take away their religion.

“I couldn’t stop crying for a week, to see how life was so primitive and people were in pain,” Ghafarshad recalls.

U.S. officials struggled to communicate their goals, couldn’t tailor their ideas to local conditions, and wasted taxpayer dollars on ill-conceived projects, he says. The Afghan government they helped set up was corrupt.

” Do not mistake yourself. Our soldiers went there wholeheartedly. They wanted to help. They were wonderful to people, ”says Ghafarshad, who has witnessed such interactions on a daily basis.

In some ways, he came home disillusioned. And yet he was able to see Afghanistan and reconnect with his roots. He prefers to think that the year is stimulating and rewarding.

He first saw the United States in 1960, sent here for military pilot training by his government, an ally of the United States. In 1968, back in America for training, and learning that his country was no longer safe, he resigned his commission and stayed here with Fahima.

They eventually made it to Claremont and had the opportunity to purchase a 20-seat restaurant. Walter’s became such a success that it expanded into adjacent buildings to now accommodate 400 people and 90 employees.

Nangy Ghafarshad has owned Walter’s, one of the pillars of the village of Claremont, since 1973 with his wife, Fahima. He returned to Afghanistan for a year as a senior cultural advisor in an attempt to aid the US efforts, but left in dismay. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

“We were almost wiped out by the pandemic,” admits Ghafarshad. But they stuck it out, helped by customers who ordered $ 10 take out and handed over $ 50. “How good can he be?” ” he says.

As for Afghanistan, he says the country will not retreat completely, that 20 years of progress will not disappear.

The press is free to criticize, girls go to school, women hold jobs. The Taliban probably can’t reverse all of this and probably wouldn’t because of their desire for international respect, Ghafarshad predicts. But options for women and media freedom may shrink.

Ghafarshad’s wishlist included one final return trip, which he now doubts will happen. He apologizes, needlessly, wondering if he was rambling or saying more than he should.

“My wife and I can’t talk about it,” he says. “We cry.”

David Allen writes Friday, Sunday and Wednesday, more to cry. Email [email protected], call 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @ davidallen909 on Twitter.

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