Afghanistan’s previous finance minister, now a DC Uber driver, ponders what went incorrect

Khalid Payenda waits for his up coming Uber rider in Washington D.C. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Article)

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Till last summer time, Khalid Payenda was Afghanistan’s finance minister, overseeing a $6 billion spending plan — the lifeblood of a federal government combating for its survival in a war that had lengthy been at the heart of U.S. overseas coverage.

Now, 7 months just after Kabul had fallen to the Taliban, he was at the wheel of his Honda Accord, headed north on I-95 from his house in Woodbridge, Va., towards Washington, D.C. Payenda swiped at his phone and opened the Uber application, which available his “quest” for the weekend. For now his success was measured in hundreds of pounds instead than billions.

“If I complete 50 outings in the subsequent two days, I obtain a $95 bonus,” he explained as he navigated the light Friday-night time targeted traffic.

The task was his way of supporting his wife and four young children immediately after he burned by way of his family’s savings from Afghanistan. “I truly feel exceptionally grateful for it,” mentioned the 40-12 months-previous. “It signifies I really don’t have to be desperate.” It was also a short term reprieve from obsessing over the ongoing tragedy in his country, which was suffering by way of a catastrophic drought, a pandemic, intercontinental sanctions, a collapsed economic climate, a famine and the resurgence of Taliban rule.

Senior U.S. officers have mainly moved on from the Afghanistan war, which started 20 a long time before with superior-minded claims of democracy, human rights and women’s rights and finished with an American president blaming Afghans, this sort of as a Payenda, for the mess remaining powering.

“So what’s took place? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the place,” President Joe Biden reported as determined Afghans rushed to the airport the working day just after Kabul fell, including: “We gave them every single resource they could will need. . . . We gave them every possibility to ascertain their individual foreseeable future. What we could not give them was the will to fight for that long run.”

Khalid Payenda looks at his Uber app as he starts his shift.

Khalid Payenda seems to be at his Uber app as he begins his change. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Article)

Khalid Payenda steps into his Honda outside his home in Woodbridge, Va.

Khalid Payenda steps into his Honda outside the house his dwelling in Woodbridge, Va. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Article)

The issue of what happened and who was at fault haunted Payenda. He blamed his fellow Afghans. “We didn’t have the collective will to reform, to be major,” he mentioned. He blamed the Us citizens for handing the nation to the Taliban and betraying the enduring values that supposedly had animated their combat. He blamed himself.

“It eats at you inside,” he mentioned. He felt trapped involving his aged lifetime and dreams for Afghanistan and a new life in the United States that he had in no way seriously wished. “Appropriate now, I will not have any position,” he claimed. “I never belong right here, and I will not belong there. It really is a really vacant sensation.”

He crossed the Potomac River into D.C. On his appropriate, monuments to America’s democracy and its Founding Fathers shone against the night time sky. His Honda rolled to a end in entrance of the Kennedy Heart, where by two George Washington College college students were ready for him.

They settled into the again seat of his sedan and commenced chatting about their day — the sudden fall in temperature, their designs for evening meal, a mishap previously that morning on the Metro prepare. “I dropped my cellular phone and it slid down the total motor vehicle,” 1 of the gals was expressing. “It was the worst instant of my total existence.”

Right after a couple minutes’ travel, Payenda dropped the ladies at their condominium and speedily checked his cell phone.

“4-dollar tip,” he explained.