Years ago, I frequently took a cab to our favorite airport, Københavns Lufthavn. On several occasions, I had the same driver, a tall, slender man with a neatly kept beard, a loosely hanging red scarf and a wide, gentle smile. He was a good-looking fellow that if I had to guess, came from somewhere in northern China, or, perhaps Mongolia.
As usual, I bombarded my driver with a spate of questions, the first being where he originally came from. As an immigrant myself, I’ve always felt legitimized to make such inquiries, even on a reasonably personal level, regardless really of wherever in the world I’ve taken a cab.
When my driver replied Afghanistan, I told him how his answer surprised me and that I had guessed somewhere many thousands of miles further northeast. Without taking his eyes off the road, the driver smiled and spent the rest of our time together enlightening me about Afghanistan’s many tribes and ethnicities.
As we neared the airport’s drop-off zone, he told me that my guess wasn’t too far off, that he in fact belonged to the Hazara tribe, which according to legend are descendants of Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire.
Mongol soldiers swept through the region of what is today’s Afghanistan sometime during the 13th century. Wary from war, many of Genghis’ soldiers settled down and their Asiatic features and language – a dialect of Persian – set them apart from other tribes, including the predominant Pashtun.
Now that the Taliban have once again overtaken Afghanistan, a country shared by Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimaq, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashai, Nuristani, Gujjar, Arab, Brahui, Qizilbash, Pamiri, Kyrgyz, Sadat, and many others, smaller tribes, I wonder if the medal-laden leadership at the Pentagon feel as embarrassingly incompetent as their Russian counterparts did when they abandoned Afghanistan back in February 1989. It boggles the mind how little is learned from history. From epic mistakes. From massive fuckups. How it took 2 trillion taxpayer dollars, twenty years and thousands if not tens of thousands of civillian and military casualites to realize that the endeavor was doomed to fail, that the strategy was flawed to begin with and it was only a matter of time before the zealots would return, is just incredible. So much tragedy. Eisenhower was so right when he warmed against the Military Industrial Complex. For they are the only winners.