A Midwest-based reporter recounts his sojourns to Afghanistan, the harsh realities on the ground and the personal connections he made.
Before he landed in Bagram Air Base in November 2001, the only thing Kansas City Star journalist Garcia knew about Afghanistan was that the U.S. government was committed to routing out the Taliban and that it served as the backdrop for Rambo III. During the course of six years and five tours in Afghanistan, as well as one in neighboring Pakistan, Garcia came to think of the region as a second home. Though fraught with corruption, poverty and marked cultural differences, it also provided a unique friendship. His main compatriot was Khalid, Garcia’s young Afghan driver and translator who he affectionately referred to as Bro. The two ventured through the heart of Kabul, as well as out into the unstable rural areas, trying to follow the often-complicated recovery effort. More often than not they encountered locals—hunger-stricken families, disillusioned shopkeepers, outcast war widows, resourceful beggar boys—who stood in sharp contrast to the messages of hope and stability the media and the government often touted. These stark and often heartbreaking moments, as well as the duo’s more frightful brushes with bombings, trigger-happy checkpoints and wandering gangs of bandits, make The Khaarijee—the Dari word for outsider—more than a simple memoir. It’s a first-person account of the messiness of war and the failings of good intentions, both of which serve as recurring themes throughout. By the end readers may feel the same affinity for the country that the author does, hoping that one day Afghanistan will fully recover from its violent past.
Timely and compelling, Garcia provides a glimpse beyond the easy headlines.