25 February 2009

Friend's kidnapping prompts return to States

An international faculty member at AUAF returned to the United States earlier this week after a friend of hers was kidnapped and was still missing more than a week after his abduction.

The faculty member, who was at her job for less than a month, was born in Afghanistan but spent much of her life in the States. Her sudden departure was also motivated by repeated requests from her adult children that began well before the kidnapping. She recently told me that she wanted to make some contribution to the reconstruction of her homeland, where many members of her extended family still live. Her friend, who was abducted in the western part of the country, is also an Afghan-American.

Any Westerner here is presumptively wealthy—and certainly so relative to the rampant and deep poverty of Afghanistan —and therefore a potential target for kidnappers, who are often criminals devoid of any political agenda. Apolitical kidnappers often seek ransom from the family members of their victims; other times they “sell” their victims to the Taliban, which uses them for their political and/or monetary value.

Afghan expatriates returning to their native country have told me they are often expected to financially support their extended families here. Western style individualism, including the belief that income is personal property, runs contrary to some traditional Afghan values that place a higher emphasis on the collective interests of the extended family.

International workers in Afghanistan are deluged with security briefings and updates. Some days I receive six or seven alerts by either email or mobile phone text messages. The proximity of the danger was again underscored this week when I was informed that one of the more than two dozen people killed in Taliban attacks on government building in and around Kabul earlier this month included a relative of one of our transportation escorts.


  1. Hi Seamus,
    Reading and forwarding your observations. Quite an experience, to say the least.

  2. Seamus, I see you now allow comments. Be careful, Afghanistan sounds a lot more dangerous than Kyrgyzstan.