Sabari

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/03/world/asia/03wikileaks-corruption.html?_r=1&ref=hamid_karzai&pagewanted=all

In the midst of the attached article on the dreary subject of Afghan corruption, there’s mention of a man I remembered well from Khowst and of whom my memories are pleasant. Tahir Khan Sabari, said in the article to be above the widespread job-buying that characterizes Afghan governance, was the deputy governor throughout my stint in Khowst and for long periods of time served as acting governor. The governor before Sabari fled to Canada and the Kabul appointee who eventually replaced him was high-strung and emotional.

But Sabari was different. Humble in demeanor, he dressed in Pashtun regalia and hailed from Taliban-ridden Sabari (!) district in north Khowst. Clearly not an outsider like the men he filled in for, he no doubt knew more about insurgent activity than he let on. But the American and ANSF forces in Khowst vastly preferred working with Sabari than anyone else. Unlike so many others, he was fair, practical, and direct in articulating problems and suggesting solutions.

My personal interactions with Sabari were limited, though he knew the ANA liked me and he too seemed to approve of me.

Once, though, we were darn near intimate. While jumping off a helicopter together enroute to a shura, Sabari’s turban unraveled in the rotor turbulence and began to ascend toward the whirling blades. Fearing for the turban, Sabari, and the helicopter (in about that order), I pinned Sabari’s head against my chest with my forearm and then began reeling in his turban with my free hands.

Disaster averted, I now wondered what wrath I would suffer as a result of being party to this horrible indignity suffered upon the acting governor of Khowst. But Sabari was nothing but smiles, as if he had just been made the subject of a big joke which he found as funny as anyone. He then gave me a laughing tutorial on how to rewrap a turban and off we went to the shura. And where before he had been merely cordial, after the affaire-de-turban he was always full of good cheer and warm greetings.

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2 Responses to “Sabari”

  1. James Brizzle Says:

    I can’t imagine the audacity needed to be upset with someone who just potentially saved his life, and avoided his personal beliefs to be tarnished temporarily!

  2. petermolin Says:

    James–that’s kind of my point–I was worried that Sabari would be all upset, but he was completely humane and understanding about it. Says more about me, than him, I fear! -Pete

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