Salar Abdoh and Mohammad Hossein Jafarian in Guernica:
Salar Abdoh: I’ve read my share of books and articles over the years about Afghanistan and talked to people who spent stretches of time there, but it’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve never come across one person who has more in-the-field experience than you have about a land that few understand but many weigh in on, far too irresponsibly.
The thing that I want to first ask you about, the thing that I suppose has irked me as I listen to Western analyses of the debacle now brought on Afghanistan — the obscene withdrawal, the countless “assets” left behind to fend for themselves, and the general misery that Afghans faced before and will face now with a Taliban that has waited two decades to mete retribution — is this notion of “nation-building” that Americans always talk about. Both left- and right-leaning American politicians take for granted that, in fact, that is what America tried to do in Afghanistan. It’s the premise that everyone begins their conversation with. Do you think that America was ever really engaged in nation-building in Afghanistan?
Mohammad Hossein Jafarian: A false premise. Someone engages in building a nation who understands that nation – its people, what they eat, what they dream, how they walk through a door, what their aspirations are. Instead you go and pluck some guy, Ashraf Ghani, from the World Bank and install him there and imagine you are building a nation?