The Foreign Service Journal, September 2021

FOCUS 9/11, TWENTY YEARS LATER The ProperMeasure of the Place THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2021 35 Keith W. Mines retired from the State Department Foreign Service in 2019 after a career including tours in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. He was interim economic counselor in Kabul in 2002 and consul general in Mazar-e Sharif from 2012 to 2013. His book Why Nation-Building Matters (University of Nebraska Press, 2020; discount code 6AS20) recounts these experi- ences, along with seven other conflicts in Colombia, Grenada, El Salvador, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq and Darfur. I n his account of travels in Afghanistan in 1984 during the civil war against the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul, British travel writer and novelist Jason Elliot describes being “captive of an unexpected light,” entering a world “in some way enchanted, for which we lacked the proper measure.” “Enchanted” is not a word one often associates with Afghanistan, but most would agree we have never taken the proper measure of the place. It is a land that has captured the heart of many diplomats and soldiers, smitten by the stunning landscapes and fierce determination of a people who have for centuries watched foreigners arrive to great fanfare with their “national interest,” only to leave sooner or later in frustration. The United States went through this cycle in 1989, when it turned its attention away from Afghanistan after building up the mujahideen resistance to Soviet occupation. As a new cycle of abandonment and self-doubt is upon us, a flood of questions descends, starting with “How did it come to this?” Kanishka and Arif: A Clash of Visions Within a month of my arrival in Kabul in the spring of 2002 as interim economic counselor, I met a Pashtun from Paktika prov- ince in the Loya Jirga (general assembly). Mohammed Arif was in his early 40s, tall and slender, with hands that evinced a life of farming, fighting and prayer. He still had a crumpled ID card from the fight against the Soviets that described him as a “model jihadi fighter.” Drawing from two tours, a decade apart, a veteran diplomat explores the competing visions for Afghanistan. BY KE I TH W. M I NES