Javed Rezayee is what I’d call an Asian American Afghan. An AAA. A triple-A.
So, he’s one of us. An Asian American brother. He came to the U.S. more than a dozen years ago as a student, and now he’s an American citizen. He voted for Biden. But he told me the president was wrong to abandon Afghanistan.
“Biden had other options,” Rezayee told me on a webcall Tuesday.
Like what? Like figuring out a humane and graceful exit from Afghanistan.
Rezayee is exhausted following the news, still trying to ensure that his family back in Kabul are safe.
Yes, some are still there. Rezayee is following it all from his home in Boston.
How does he feel today? In one word: “devastated.”
But it all goes back to Biden.
“He didn’t think this through,” Rezayee said. “It was a mistake.”
What about when Afghan soldiers surrendered or didn’t show the will to fight, as Biden said? Why risk American lives when Afghans would not?
Rezayee was adamant.
“American lives have stopped being lost a while back,” Reza said, noting that Afghan National Army soldiers were still willing to die. They just didn’t get the support from Kabul, he said.
“Right now, it’s all about money.”
Rezayee pointed out that the U.S. helps other countries militarily, like Pakistan and Egypt. “Afghanistan could have been just one more, and of course, there was already much that had gone into Afghanistan.”
Over the last 20 years, a reported $2 trillion had been invested by the U.S. in Afghanistan. The only reason to pull out now in August is to score a politically popular win that Trump started, but then bungled by negotiating with the Taliban directly, and not with the Afghan government. Biden extended the May withdrawal to August. It was still popular. Until the chaotic pictures came back this weekend.
So why did Biden get out? I think it was to show we learned the mistakes of Vietnam. And that we’ve finally learned to get out of someone else’s back yard.
It’s not colonial. It’s not even paternal. It’s just wrong. Like Vietnam. Not our game of dominoes.
But what’s good for America is bad for the Afghans.
“Let’s think about this,” Rezayee asked me. “Would you as an American want peace under tyranny? No.”
Because if the Taliban is in charge, that’s potentially bad for women, for children, as we all fear. It’s also bad for Asian minorities like the Hazaras, a Persian-speaking ethnic group in Central Afghanistan that has been attacked by ISIS.
Rezayee blames the Afghan leadership for failing the people. He’s critical of former president Hamid Karzai for letting the country’s culture of corruption fester and grow. And he calls the recent Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country over the weekend, “delusional” for thinking the country could defend against the Taliban.
But Rezayee said the writing was on the wall once Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to shake hands with the Taliban.
Rezayee said that’s when most Afghans felt “betrayed.”
“It was humiliating,” he told me.
American politicos, however, were hellbent into tapping into a sense of “exhaustion” everyone felt, or thought they felt. It could have just gone on. No one noticed Afghanistan until Trump made it an issue. Rezayee said American lives weren’t at risk. It was just an easy political win to be had.
“I understand,” Rezayee said about Biden. “He gets credit [for ending American involvement] but at what cost? It’s like Afghans–nobody cares about them, they don’t have any value.”
So now the Afghans are really on their own.
“It’s up to the Afghans to help themselves and nobody else,” said Rezayee, who is hoping for domestic pressure within to stand up to the Taliban.
He thinks that plus external pressure, like hoping that countries will not recognize the Taliban as the official government as has happened in the past, will keep the Taliban honest.
What about the prospect that the Taliban has changed, as leaders have suggested in interviews? That just as Afghans have changed and been exposed to the modern world, so has the Taliban been modernized. Does that fly?
“No, no, no,” insists Rezayee. “Nothing happened to change the Taliban. They just won. They are the same terrorists…The only change is that they became the ‘ king of the world‘ now. They can do whatever they want. Nobody can stop them because the biggest boy in the corner came in lost and went back, so ([he Taliban)]has the freedom to do whatever.”
If the Taliban is not being too aggressive right now, Rezayee said it’s because they’re hoping to get recognition from outsiders.
“The Taliban are taking it a little easy now,” Rezayee said. “Trying not to rock the boat and to kind of win hearts and minds.”
Funny. That’s a phrase from the Vietnam war. Hearts and minds. Win those two things, and you win over the country.
The sense of a kind and gentler Taliban is optimistic. Rezayee said he’s also hearing that houses are being searched, and activists are being sought out.
That’s the crowd he’s hopeful will be able to pressure the country from within. It would also prove Biden wrong about Afghans willing to fight for their country.
“A lot of Afghans want to be free, they want democracy, they want women’s rights, minority rights; they want to live a kind of modern life to be connected with the world,” Rezayee said.
These last 20 years have given Afghanistan a taste of all that. And that feeling isn’t going away. Could that change the Taliban?
An Asian American Afghan is trying to stay hopeful.
I will talk about my conversation with Rezayee on Facebook watch, Live at 2p Pacific, on my “Emil Amok’s Takeout”/Show 117. That recording is posted later on www.amok.com.