NEW DELHI: Once a finance minister of Afghanistan, Khalid Payenda is now driving an Uber in Washington DC to support his family.
According to a report by The Washington Post, Payenda fled Afghanistan right before the Taliban took over the country last year. He had presented a $ 6 billion budget in the parliament during the Ashraf Ghani government.
The father of four, who has joined the gig economy, said the work had made a huge difference in his life: “I feel incredibly grateful for it. It means I don’t have to be desperate.” Payenda also co-teaches a course at Georgetown University, and occasionally speaks at think-tanks.
Payenda told The Washington Post that he holds the Americans responsible for the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. After two decades of conflict, the United States withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021.
Months before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, former President Donald Trump’s government signed a conditional peace deal with the militant group in February 2020, vowing to pull out the US troops over 14 months. The agreement notably did not include the Aghan government.
Senior US officials have mostly moved on from the Afghanistan war, which started 20 years earlier with high-minded promises of democracy, human rights, and women’s rights and concluded with an American president accusing Afghans, such as a Payenda, for the mess that was left behind.
As Payenda’s relationship with Ghani deteriorated, he resigned a week before the Taliban captured Kabul. Fearing that the president might detain him, he fled to the United States, reuniting with his family.
In a text message to a World Bank official in Kabul on the day the capital fell, Payenda stated, as quoted by The Washington Post, that they had 20 years and the whole world’s support to build a system that would work for the people. Payenda said that all they created was a house of cards that came falling so quickly. The foundation of a house of cards is corruption, he added.