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Afghan Adviser At U.S. Embassy Says There's Been No Contact From Kabul

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Outside the embassy of Afghanistan here in downtown D.C., there's a high brick wall surrounding the building - red brick as well. I don't know if you can hear, but flapping in the breeze above us is a enormous Afghan flag, by which I mean not the Taliban flag, which flies these days over Kabul, but the red, black and green flag of Afghanistan. We were wondering, are people still showing up to work here every day given everything going on in Afghanistan? We wondered, who are they working for, and who's paying the bills?

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

FAWAD NAZAMI: Good morning.

KELLY: Good morning.

NAZAMI: Good morning. How are you?

KELLY: Mr. Nazami?

NAZAMI: Yes, please.

KELLY: How do you do?

NAZAMI: How are you?

KELLY: This is Fawad Nazami, the political counselor here at the embassy. He leads us inside past a portrait of the man that the U.S. now calls former President Ashraf Ghani. It's still hanging there right on the wall. On a normal day, about 25 people work here at the embassy. Needless to say, though, these are anything but normal days for Afghanistan. And Fawad Nazami, who we have come to interview, is the only person in sight. I asked him, are there orders coming from Kabul? Is there contact?

NAZAMI: Since last week, we lost our communication. Sunday we...

KELLY: The day that Kabul fell.

NAZAMI: The Kabul fall - everyone here at the embassy, we all were shocked. Taliban closed Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we lost our contacts.

KELLY: Like, you're calling and just no one's answering?

NAZAMI: No one's answering because nobody is there.

KELLY: Nazami and I settle into armchairs in a sunny reception room. There's a crystal chandelier dangling above a mural of a Bamiyan Buddha, the famous statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, at the far end of the room. He has worked here at the embassy since 2019. His wife is here in the U.S., too - his kids. Nazami told me he is still working the phones, coming into the office, and he has prepared to do the same that Sunday after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

NAZAMI: On Monday, I decided to come to the embassy. I went to my closet to put on my official outfit (ph). I saw my ties, and to be honest, I got really emotional. I couldn't control myself. I started crying. In Afghanistan, culturally, it's not good for men to cry. We have a say (ph) that men never cry.

I love to wear tie, and I wore tie 13 years of serving Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It gives me the sense that I'm serving for a country, for Republic of Afghanistan. Like, I'm representing people of Afghanistan - proudly representing. But these days, I afraid when I see the tie that things are ending.

I was there. I lived in Afghanistan during Taliban regime. I was at a school. Life under Taliban is like the city's a big prison. You don't have very basic and very fundamental rights. And sometimes when I discuss with friends and colleagues and related, I say that death is much more better than living under Taliban regime.

KELLY: Death is better?

NAZAMI: Death is much better. And this was the belief that our national security forces had when they were fighting against Taliban. The changes come - came in the leadership. I don't know why, but there are some factors why President Ghani decided to hand over our national security forces to Taliban.

KELLY: So you're not a fan of President Ghani?

NAZAMI: I'm a really big fan of republic system, but that republic system was destroyed by Ghani, and before him, even by Hamid Karzai.

KELLY: You've called him corrupt. You don't like former President Ghani. Do you believe - is he the former president? What are you calling him?

NAZAMI: He is escaping president. He escaped, and he did not resign. I don't know what to call. The status is unclear. As I told you, now, he is behind all these collapsed and, you know, distractions (ph).

KELLY: We're sitting in a building. His portrait is still on the wall downstairs. It's the flag of Afghanistan...

NAZAMI: Yeah.

KELLY: ...Not the Taliban flag.

NAZAMI: No, no, never. As long as we, the diplomats, are here, that flag will never come to this building.

KELLY: So who will pay your paycheck now? Who's paying for the electricity and the water in this building?

NAZAMI: For now - it's a question of future because it's only one week after what happened. So far, we are not facing any problem financially.

KELLY: So you will not try to go back to Afghanistan?

NAZAMI: Afghanistan if under the control of Taliban? I told you it's a prison. I cannot. I cannot survive there because I have different political opinions. I have different values. I have different principles. I don't want to see womens (ph) are banned going to universities. I don't want to see people are slashing (ph) on the street for not going to mosque on time. That I cannot see.

KELLY: Would you want to stay in the United States if you can?

NAZAMI: I will decide after I consult with my lawyer, but the United States is a great country.

KELLY: Do you feel angry at the United States?

NAZAMI: First, I should be angry at corruption in Afghanistan, the crisis in leadership in Afghanistan, at bad political players. National bad political players used that - whatever they could during this 20 years. They invested there in billions. And there were people who committed corruption there. There were some contractors maybe from U.S. as well, but most of this corruption's happened inside the country. The leadership...

KELLY: So you believe Afghanistan's problems are mostly because of Afghans?

NAZAMI: Afghan corrupted leaders - but we have the crisis that now we have in the country. Why the country collapsed? It did not collapse in one day, actually. It's the result...

KELLY: You're not angry at the U.S. for leaving, for pulling out?

NAZAMI: You know, every country is responsible for itself at the first place. If U.S. is not there and you have 300,000 national security forces and you have funds for that, you have equipment, why shouldn't you fight against your enemy yourself? It's your responsibility to fight against your national enemy. With all this amount of money, cooperation, political, you know, support, we could have built a better Afghanistan. I think U.S. did what it could.

KELLY: Do you worry about the risk of speaking so frankly? Do you worry about your own safety or the safety of your family?

NAZAMI: We are children of war. When I'm in Afghanistan, I can play this role there (ph). I - this country threaten my life, my friends, my relatives' life. When you're fighting for freedoms, you have to be ready to pay that cost and the price.

KELLY: Thank you.

NAZAMI: Thank you very much. Thank you for your time.

KELLY: Thank you.

Fawad Nazami - he is, for now, the political counselor here at the embassy of Afghanistan in Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID KITT'S "BETWEEN THRESHOLDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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