The Kite Runner and Political Stability in Afghanistan
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
July 03, 2013 08:54 AM | 6325 views | 4 4 comments | 378 378 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Khaled Hosseini speak in Texas.   He is the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  His book And the Mountains Echoed was just published in 2013.  He has already sold more than thirty-eight million books worldwide.   Though a writer of fiction, he is uniquely positioned to offer keen insights into Afghanistan that should be heeded by other Americans. 

Hosseini was a doctor before he was a best selling novelist.  He was a writer in obscurity before he was a doctor.  Whilst he has lived most of his life in the United States, he was born in Afghanistan.  He was an Afghan before he was an American.Hosseini’s father was a diplomat; his mother taught Farsi, and he had a very pleasant childhood in Afghanistan.  But then there was a communist coup known as “the Saur” or “April Revolution.”  This was quickly followed by the Soviet invasion.   The occupation was a long and bloody one with Cold War implications, which attracted the attention of the United States.  

After his family was granted political asylum, a fifteen-year-old Hosseini started high school in California.  Adjusting to the culture of American dreams, he followed a traditional educational trajectory, which eventually led him to medical school. 

Somewhere along the way, drawing from the well within him, he wrote a short story called “The Kite Runner,” which he put in a yellow envelope and stored in a box in his garage.  It had been created for himself alone.  But then his wife found the envelope.  She liked the piece and encouraged revisions, so six months before 9/11 shook his adopted homeland to its core, Hosseini had begun crafting a novel set in two hemispheres. 

Khaled Hosseini’s work is vivid and powerful, but he understands his book partially struck a chord with the American public because of timing.  American sons and daughters were being deployed to Kabul as The Kite Runner was published.  Not only was it a great novel, there was a hunger to understand something more about a country so few could point to on a map.   Perhaps Afghanistan wasn’t just a harbor for hate.   Maybe there was humanity to find in the fiction. 

Hosseini continued to be a doctor for eighteen months after The Kite Runner was launched.  He did not see himself yet as the writer he clearly was even though patients started asking him for his signature during their check-ups.  Once he started seeing people reading his book on airplanes, he began to think that maybe a career in letters was possible.  Flipping channels one night, he saw his book was the answer to a question on Jeopardy.  He knew then it was time to resign from medicine.  

Hosseini’s talent has always been his own, but the opportunity to share that talent was a gift from the United States.  The stories that poured from him came from Afghanistan.  Today the writer gives back to both nations as a goodwill envoy for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Additionally, the Khaled Hosseini Foundation provides humanitarian assistance to refugees in one of the most war torn and poverty stricken countries on the face of the planet. Through his involvement, he is well positioned to have an opinion about that country’s future and American involvement within it.

First, he has always expressed a deep hatred for the Taliban and its totalitarian tactics.  He was happy when the Bush administration toppled this group from power.  However, he has been openly critical of what he felt was misguided neglect of Afghanistan after the Iraq invasion.  This criticism is fair. 

When asked about what he thinks will happen after American troops leave in 2014, he reminded the audience of which I was a part that the West has never had the power to change the Afghan people, but the exceptionally young population of Afghanistan is slowly changing itself.  The last twelve years have been very important in this process.  The Americans opened the opportunity for freedom, and this should not be overlooked or taken for granted.       

Even so, most are very frightened of the vacuum that will be left upon US withdrawal.  Afghans know the central government is weak.  Though support for foreign troops encamped on Afghan soil has eroded because of effective propaganda spread by the Taliban, collateral damage from drone strikes, and the natural eroding power of time, the Afghans themselves fear militia wars and chaos more than they fear anything else.   Yet he is certain no one wants the Taliban back in power. 

Hosseini did not address what he thought about the Obama administration including this group in negotiations, but he told the New York Times in May that “it’s really important that we don’t rush toward a resolution for the sake of having a resolution…”

I hope someone in the White House is at least considering what Hosseini is saying. 

Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 15, 2014

The average Westerner has virtually no idea of what Islam is about or how it works. You can probably get through life without extensive reading on the subject is you just remember that about 85% of Muslims are Sunni and 15% are Shia (Shii).

The Sunni view the Shia like the Indian Caste system regards 'untouchables', that is they have no use for them and except for a very few countries (Iran and Iraq being the main ones), they are marginalized, have poor employment prospects and are looked down on as being Muslim pretenders.

This dates back to the death of the Last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad in 862 when those now known as Sunni decided that the Caliphate to succeed as head of the Islamic religion would be the best and most knowledgeable of their faith and those now known as Shia wanted the Islamic leader to be a direct descendant of Muhammad.

This latter idea was complicated as Muhammad had no surviving sons, only a daughter and her husband who was also a cousin of Muhammad so the Shia's have recognized decedents from that linage. From here things got complicated but keep in mind that for over 1100 years each side has hated the other and this isn't about to change.


Political Organizer Obama does one thing very well and that is he is able to 'do nothing' with the best of them. This Iraq dust up between Sunni and Shia is time for him to excell and again DO NOTHING. No, seriously, he should do NOTHING, take no side, bomb no one.

Just sit idly by and watch a bunch of idiots kill themselves. We have even thoughtfully provided nearly a Trillion bucks worth of arms, ammunition and vehicles so the Arabs and Persians can now gleefully play in their sand box and blow each other to whereever it is they go to when dead.

Look how successful we have been in both Libya and Syria with our 'do nothing' foreign policy. I admit that it is really just an accidental foreign policy, Obama is totally clueless on what to do, but that oddly has worked out pretty well in that there are now over 100,000 dead Arabs just in Syria and who knows how many in Libya and Iraq.

So Obama's unintended foreign policy of 'doing nothing' has actually born fruit for the West.

Libya and Syria have reduced themselves to rubble, Iraq is going that way and if we manage to keep our little pointy noses out of it they can kill each other for many more years to come.
Concerned Citizen
July 12, 2013
Thanks for a very interesting article. I will be making my way to the library to obtain the Hosseini books.
Kevin Foley
July 03, 2013
I agree "Kite Runner" was a good novel but the U.S. has no business in Afghanistan. We've now learned the same lesson the British and Soviets learned. It's a cesspool with no escape.

Afghanistan isn't a "country." It's a mish mash of backward tribes with competing self-interests, ancient feuds and no knowledge or interest in nationhood or democracy. The corrupt president of Afghanistan is really just the mayor of Kabul, nothing more.

No surprise Hosseini thinks we should shed more American blood there trying to prove West Point's counterinsurgency theory (aka nation building) works. It doesn't.
Christine Thiessen
July 03, 2013
I have read all three of Mr. Hosseini's excellent books.

This article by Ms. Lane is thought provoking; I too, hope that someone in the White House is listening.

Thank you for another excellent article.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides