Return to Afghanistan

The photos below are from my flight from Dubai to Kabul.  In our recent video it is said that “for many Afghans you are a foreigner whether you are from 7 or 7000 miles away.”  Looking down at this extreme landscape it is much easier to understand how isolated many Afghans are and why the war is not against one ‘Taliban insurgency’ but against thousands of proud communities, traditional tribes, opportunist thugs and gangs as well as many fundamentalist religious groups.  Combine the divisions created by this landscape with cultural and religious traditions that are the most conservative anywhere and add 40 years of survival through wars and poverty is it any wonder that many Afghans – especially those in the 80% of the country that is rural – are suspicious, paranoid, xenophobic and easily moved by conspiracy theories? Here is a slice of the landscape that forms the foundation of the Afghan character.

The foreign forces are more visible at the airport and in the city then when I was last here in October 09.  For some years the strategy has been for foreign forces to maintain a low profile in and around Kabul.  The intent is to give the Afghan population the impression if not the belief that their capitol can be protected by the Afghan police and military.  The dramatically deteriorating security situation is making this more difficult.

In the evening a Takhari folk music recital organized by the Aga Khan Music Initiative for Central Asia. This evening’s concert was part of an ongoing program, supported by Norway and the United States, to invite musicians from the provinces to Kabul to rehearse, record and perform.

Ustad Rajab, 90 years old, sang a form of Takhari music called Goraghli.  Goraghli means “born in the grave” and comes from a Turkmen legend, telling of how Princess Mahilal, the sister of the King of Turkestan, becomes pregnant as a result of the gaze of a stranger.  Nearing the time of the birth of her child and ashamed of the stories that others tell defaming her character, she prays for death.  Before her child is born she dies and is buried by her family.  Her child is born in the grave, and a horse called Madian hears the child’s cries, digs the baby out and raises it. [from the Aga Khan program notes]