About 70 Returned PC volunteers who served in Afghanistan between 1962 - 1979.  Ambassador Ekul Hakimi is hosting us on Friday night of the 50th anniversary weekend. Unlike the Stanley Kramer movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, there was no surprise in the Ambassador’s inviting us to stay for a meal. That was the custom back when we were there, no matter how far outside of the Afghans’ cultural framework we appeared to be, and clearly hospitality to strangers is still important.

It began with our NPCA affiliate, Friends of Afghanistan, approaching Ambassador Hakimi with a request that an antique Quran that a volunteer had bought and brought home be returned by some members of the group. This was met with great enthusiasm, and an invitation followed to stay and share stories and photos of volunteers who have continued with projects related to Afghanistan. Like Peace Corps volunteers everywhere, the experience didn’t end with the time in-country.

So, there’s that, but more interesting to me is that Friends of Afghanistan organizers invited the Ambassador to join us to speak on Saturday morning at The L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. What will he want us to hear, to think about, to do? Hakimi has an engineering background, left Afghanistan for California during the Soviet occupation, and has served as Ambassador to China and Japan in turn.

C-SPAN broadcast an interview on July 2 in which Hakimi outlined three initiatives between the U.S. and Afghanistan. One is the strategic partnership document, which he described as a work-in-progress. The framework will contain future military, economic and good governance agreements between the two countries. Specifically Hakimi referred to the opportunity for US companies to invest in mineral extraction as the Chinese are doing.

A second initiative is security by Afghans and development of basic services for Afghans by their government. He spoke directly about government corruption, when asked, by saying it is caused by uncertainty. No one is sure he/she will have a position tomorrow. Other factors are poverty and lack of salary for government officials. Unfortunately, the money from international partners has also contributed to corruption.

The third initiative he’s working on in Washington is reconciliation, bringing the violent segments into society. He feels that such elements that are willing to cut ties with al qaeda, pledge non-violence and to abide by Afghan laws can be re-integrated.

Many Americans have thrown their hands up about Afghan - US relations. The Ambassador will be with Americans who cannot do that. Our hope for Afghanistan is pretty relentless, and we will be eager to hear what he has to say. See you there.