My plane to Kabul was delayed four hours, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 pm. Plenty of time to chat with Afghan-Americans returning to visit friends or relatives.
Fred (Fareed) from Houston tells me he's going back after three decades to visit high school classmates. Many had fled the country with their families in the 1980s because war made education difficult. Some who went to Russia and got professional degrees came back after the Taliban fell.
But government corruption, fueled by huge western aid contracts, is so terrible that Fred's friends are all in despair about the country's future.
He nearly cancelled his trip when an Afghan-American he knew was kidnapped for ransom leaving Kabul airport, not an uncommon occurence. Turns out, the victim's own nephew was involved and the victim was rescued only when his American family sent money to pay Afghan police to track the nephew. Fred plans to keep all his movements secret and only go by the name of Fareed.
In the meantime, my flight, Safi 202, has become a mystery flight and has disappeared from the board, with no one available to tell hapless passengers when the story will end. Sort of like the story of Afghanistan.