Unsurprisingly, the US is planning to evacuate its diplomats from its embassy in Kabul.
So might begin yet another uncertain phase of the sprawling complex on Great Massoud Road. In 1989, it was closed and a middle-aged Afghan employee became its only inhabitant — and worker — until the embassy was reopened in 2002.
I remember meeting that loyal Afghan embassy employee when I lived in the massive complex during my year in Kabul. By that time, he was quite old but he was enormously cheery about how things had turned out. The US ambassador and other diplomats were very complimentary about the old man and he was given an award, and as far as I can remember, the ultimate prize as well — a Special Immigrant Visa to allow him into the US.
My thoughts turned to the old man now that the US embassy, Kabul may once be facing evacuation — with only a skeletal staff in residence. State Department spokesperson Ned Price has been trying to downplay all that’s happening, by insisting that “This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not the wholesale withdrawal” and that it “shouldn’t be read as any sort of message to the Taliban.”
Sure. But my thoughts still turn to that old man who stayed on at the embassy in the years the US had left it locked. He may no longer even be alive.
But if he is, wouldn’t he be thinking of those jubilant days in December 2001 when marines of Kilo Battery (reinforced) raised the US flag at the embassy complex? (Click here to read a great account of what happened on 19.12.2001.)