Pomegranate Peace, The
Life on the American compound in Kabul in 2011, just weeks after the most audacious attack on the US embassy in 10 years of war. For security reasons, almost nothing – and no one – is allowed in or out. For one American diplomat it is akin to being incarcerated in a high-security Federal prison. Aching to feel, touch and taste Afghanistan she begins to explore the country through the food that Najim, an Afghan colleague, brings her from home every Thursday. In the vagaries of the Thursday chakah, Afghanistan’s signature yoghurt sauce prepared by Najim’s mother, she discerns elements of the ordinary Afghan’s life and the way it is lashed to American actions. She observes the absurdity of the American presence in Afghanistan – the isolation of its personnel and sheer folly of its expensive efforts to ‘stabilise’ the country. She works with a New York PR firm to ‘sell’ Afghanistan as a ‘brand’ after the foreign forces leave, complete with a catchy tagline and an image for the fridge magnets. She investigates an ambitious poppy-to-pomegranate crop substitution programme in southern Afghanistan, which is run from Canada. And she discovers the Aid and Reconstruction Complex, which pours billions into Afghanistan, only to leave it poorer. Her boss quotes from Alice in Wonderland : ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. You must be or you wouldn’t have come here.’ And Little Sam, another colleague, churns out Stars and Stripes Haikus, ceaselessly rendering in 14 syllables America’s objectives for a war no one can properly explain any longer.