An Afghan View Through the Eyes of an American


Major (Retired) Jason Criss Howk is a former Infantry Sergeant turned Engineer Officer. He has worked with the Afghanistan mission since 2002 assisting the most senior Generals, Ambassadors, and policy-makers in building the Afghan National Army; developing the International Security Sector Reform (SSR) program in Kabul; conducting the U.S. and NATO strategic assessment of the Afghan War in 2009; helping the Afghan government create an Afghan Peace, Reintegration, and Reconciliation policy; and leading two teams that monitored Afghanistan and Pakistan issues for senior Defense and Joint Staff leaders and the National Security Staff at the White House. He continues to monitor Afghanistan and advise various entities on conflict resolution and security and is co-founder of A Voice for Two Nations.

OPINION — After President Biden gave a written update, followed by a speech, on the evacuation of Americans and select Afghan citizens that many in my circle found to be lacking in empathy and almost cruel in how he spoke of the Afghan people, an isolationist on twitter posted a picture of a plane packed with scared and betrayed Afghans trying to get out of Kabul.

This American asked his 237k twitter followers to “Raise your hand if you want this plane landing in your town?” He was on some kind of rant about evil globalists in the Bush and Obama administrations spending too much American treasure in Afghanistan. He ended his tweet with the words “No More.”

I assume he means Americans don’t need to give anything more to help the Afghan people.

I replied to his question about who would want that plane to land in their town in this way:

“I would. I’ve worked with Afghans for 19 years. Loyal, more loyal than @POTUS. Kind, more kind than you. They love hard work, education, BBQs, funny stories, and taking care of their families. They hate extremists that cause violence and division. They crave peace.”

It’s clear to me that this American doesn’t understand the Afghan people. I’m not talking about the Taliban.  I’m talking about the Afghan people.  Thousands of them are headed our way and deserve our kindness. Here’s why.

I have spent my entire career since 2002 working with Afghans, studying their nation, languages, religions, and peoples; working on issues on their behalf, and speaking for them when they could not get their voices heard. After retirement from the Army in 2015, I worked to get Afghans to speak directly for themselves in various media outlets. Afghans are smart, wise, and articulate, they understand nuanced issues better than most Americans right now, especially the concepts of forgiveness and trust.

I have had Afghans protect me and save my life, and I have saved theirs. I have gotten to spend quality time with Afghans from janitors (like my dad was) to soldiers, street kids, parliamentarians, ministers, governors, presidents, and even their last king. It has been my life’s work to gain the trust of Afghans and get them to be brutally honest with me. Over the last few years on social media and via private messages, it has become apparent that Afghans trust me. My superpower is quite simple: I have listened and have given them a voice. I am no expert, but I am a student of Afghanistan.

When I tell you that the Afghans who coming to America will become productive citizens in the mass-majority of cases, I am not just selling you an idea. I have watched Afghans work hard, long days and nights for crap pay. I have seen them work because they are patriotic, because they want to be a part of the team and provide for their families.

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Afghans are strong willed and resilient—because they have had to be to survive the wars that have been forced upon them by their neighbors since the 1970s. Afghans are much like Americans in their love for freedom and their belief in justice and fairness. Afghans are adaptable. They will absorb your ways of doing things in your communities, and they will share some of their wisdom on how to improve your towns too. They will roll up their sleeves and work to improve their community.

Afghans are great cooks and proud of their national foods. I have eaten in their homes and learned to cook all their foods. You will be lucky to have them show up at a pot-luck meal in fellowship with your fellow citizens.

Finally, I want you to help me welcome Afghan immigrants into our country because they are some of the most hospitable people in the world. Through all the hell that the Russians, Iranians, and Pakistanis have put that country through, they still treat people like guests. Right now, for all the betrayal and abandonment that the US and NATO is showing them, Afghans are still being respectful in their communications with their friends on a personal level.

Every veteran who got to know Afghans well, will tell you about how they kindly invited them to share food and drink, even if it was all the food they had. Invite Afghans to visit your home, your schools, your sporting events, your houses of worship, and to be a part of this American family.

I call many Afghans my brothers and sisters; that is the culturally correct term.

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