The Kite Runner and Political Stability in Afghanistan
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
July 03, 2013 08:54 AM | 1209 views | 3 3 comments | 12 12 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
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