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Zahir: Let me tell you a few things about my country. The first thing you have to know is that we are and always will be a mosaic of many different languages and cultures and ethnicities and approaches to Islam. There are 14 ethnic groups recognized in our national anthem — Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Balochis, Turkmens, Nooristanis, Pamiris, Arabs, Gujars, Brahuis, Qizilbash, Aimaq and Pashai. We have Sunni, Sufi and Shiite Muslims. The reason the country was relatively peaceful under my leadership, until my idiot cousin toppled me, was that people saw me as a unifying symbol to whom they could all relate.

The Taliban represent only one element in our mosaic — Pashtun Sunni Islamism. Since they were ousted by the Americans 20 years ago, all they have been thinking about is how to again own the Afghanistan they lost 20 years ago, not how to govern anew the Afghanistan that exists today.

Let me tell you, Mr. Friedman, more than 70 percent of Afghanistan’s population is under 25 years old. Most of them know nothing about the Taliban and have never heard of Mullah Omar — just like all those 20-somethings in Iran who have never heard of the shah and give Iran’s Islamic rulers grief every day. They have been raised in a different Afghanistan, in a different age, and they will not easily give up the freedoms they enjoyed these past 20 years, even if the country was a mess.

Tribes in this part of the world, Mr. Friedman, have a saying: Me and my brother against my cousin. Me and my brother and my cousin against the outsider.

Americans were the outsider, and the Taliban could always find plenty of passive and active cousins for their project of getting you out. But now they and their brothers will have to deal with all their cousins inside — from those 14 different ethnicities — and that will be a different story. The Taliban have no idea how to govern a modern country. Vietnam’s nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh spent his exile in Paris. These Taliban guys studied, at best, in madrassas in Pakistan, where they don’t even teach science.

And then there’s the money. The American occupation was to Afghanistan what oil is to Saudi Arabia. You were like an oil well that didn’t dry up. But now that you’re gone, so is all that income to run the government and pay salaries. How are the Taliban going to replace it? You can smuggle only so many drugs to Europe. Sure, the Chinese will throw them some crumbs to keep them away from the Uyghurs. But there are no more sucker superpowers out there that want to come in and run this place, because they all now know that all they’ll win is a bill.

Here is my prediction: The Taliban will either form a national unity government with all the major ethnic and tribal groups, under loose centralized control — and it will sort of hold the country together and be able to enlist foreign aid — or they won’t. If they do, President Biden’s bet on getting out will prove right — that America’s presence was actually preventing Afghans from compromising and coming together to govern themselves. Maybe they will even find one of my family’s descendants to be the symbolic unifier. I repeat: My reign corresponded with one of the most peaceful eras in Afghan history.

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