Ann Marlowe

Ann Marlowe is a writer and businesswoman based in New York City.Marlowe currently does research, litigation preparation and asset recovery for state, corporate and individual clients while publishing investigative journalism and cultural commentary. Her work has ranged from asset recovery to rock criticism, from exposing Cambridge Analytica to explaining why Trollope is important, but everything she does is distinguished by rigorous analysis, attention to detail, and an ability for discovering new connections. She has been called “a relentless moral essayist and a secret poet” (Luc Sante) who writes with “cool authority” (Bret Easton Ellis) and “fierce clarity” (Jonathan Lethem).

Between 2002 and 2011, Marlowe was keenly interested in insurgency, counterinsurgency and war, completing eight embeds with US troops in Afghanistan as well as more informal embeds with the Libyan rebels in 2011. She is probably the only journalist to have both lived with the family of a District Governor in Khost Province, Afghanistan, and to have rode into battle with the commander of the thuwar (revolutionaries) of Zwara, Libya.

In 2011, she made four trips to Libya to cover the revolution and war and returned twice in 2012.She quickly stumbled upon evidence of enormous corruption in government contracting. This led to her subsequent work as a consultant in asset recovery and ongoing anti-kleptocracy journalism.

Between 2002 and 2011 she traveled regularly to Afghanistan and published often on Afghanistan's politics, economy, culture and the U.S. counterinsurgency there.As a result of her experiences in eight embeds with American troops in Afghanistan beginning in August 2007, as well as visits exploring civilian life, Marlowe grew disillusioned with the official American doctrine of counterinsurgency as embraced by General Petraeus. She cautioned that Americans were approaching Afghanistan without sufficient historical sense, writing in one of her 2007 Wall Street Journal op eds, “We can do nothing about many of Afghanistan's barriers to development. For starters, 86% of its land area is non-arable. It has also never had a broad distribution of income or land. According to Afghan-Australian historian Amin Saikal, up until the early 1920s when King Amanullah gave crown lands to the poor, only 20% of peasants worked their own properties.” (

Disturbed by the contrast between the reality on the ground in Afghanistan and the brilliant works of the French counterinsurgency expert David Galula (d.1967) who had greatly influenced General Petraeus’ strategy, Marlowe researched his life at the Hoover Institution and the Strategic Studies institute of the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA. Her monograph on the life and intellectual context of David Galula was published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College in summer 2010. Ms. Marlowe has also published two memoirs, How to Stop Time and The Book of Trouble, and is one of the contributors to a compilation co-edited by Greil Marcis, A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Her articles have appeared in the op –ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and New York Post, and in the Bulwark, OCCRP, the late Weekly Standard, Daily Beast,,,and many other publications. She tweets regularly (@annmarlowe)

Ms. Marlowe has been a regular guest on the John Batchelor radio show discussing Libya, Afghanistan and counterinsurgency. She has also appeared on Fox's "Happening Now", PBS’s “Ideas in Action” with Jim Glassman, VOA, RTTV, and other television programs. She has spoken at U.S. Army bases, the Army War College, U.S. State Department, the Institut d'Histoire du Temps Present in Paris, and American colleges. In 2009, she was a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution and returned there for a research fellowship in 2010.

Ms. Marlowe was born in Suffern, New York in 1958 and educated at public schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She received her B.A. in philosophy magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1979 and studied classical philosophy there in the Ph.D. program in 1979-80. In 1984, she received an MBA in finance from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business.

ChatGPT is dangerous — but not in the way you think

February 10th, 2023

Originally published in the New York post February 5 2023

There’s a reason the phrase is “artificial intelligence,” not “artificial sensibility” or “artificial personality.” Intelligence is the easier human attribute to copy and surpass. Spending some time playing with the chatbot ChatGPT clarifies the difference and why it matters.

Some worry about bad actors using apps like ChatGPT to efficiently create disinformation or mashups of discredited conspiracy theories. Others look at the remarkable facility of the free app, introduced in November, and fear a near-future where it’s indistinguishable from a human, passing the Turing test and heralding “the singularity” of countless sci-fi stories.

No less than Elon Musk hinted at this in tweeting, “ChatGPT is scary good. We are not far from dangerously strong AI.” But Musk, like fellow least-popular Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founded OpenAI, which developed and owns ChatGPT.

Neither threat is a big danger, for the same reason something else is: the possible proliferation of junk prose without the feeling of a narrator — a personality or sensibility — behind it. If we start feeding our young on it, it’ll have consequences far worse than a potato-chip-and-soda diet.

Ironically, and fortunately, AIs will force us to unpack what’s special about human narration.

Right now, my cats have more personality than ChatGPT, probably because being embodied and subject to pain and pleasure creates what we perceive as personality, however basic. The app can write music, lyrics and code — but not distinctive English.

ChatGPT prose is like stage scenery: windows into nothing, walls an inch thick. Experimenting with the app suggests there’s no there there.

Reading a good writer, or sometimes a bad one, you feel a personality behind the words, even in an essay on a scientific question. It goes to reading’s heart.

When asked why they read fiction, people often say, “To relax.” More reflective sorts may add, “and to experience life from other perspectives.” What we overlook and never name is what makes these things possible: the felt presence of another being behind the narration. So far, there’s been little reason to think this being wouldn’t be human.

We humans need to spend hours a day with our kind to flourish, and some books, read at some times, can give us this experience more effectively than being with our families or friends. It’s what makes books a balm for loneliness and part of a humane education. Every hour spent reading is an hour spent, if not necessarily in good company, practicing receptivity to others, learning to hear rhythm and text and subtext.

Reading’s not the only way to become acculturated, but it’s a very efficient one. That’s one reason early-reading programs are a key intervention in impoverished communities — and why overscheduling kids with organized activities is not necessarily producing smarter or more humane grownups. They would be better off reading. As long as a human has written what they read.

We feel the personal presence in the driest nonfiction, where even tepid expressions like “We must not forget” or “This is a misunderstanding” remind us emotions are at play. Passionate essayists, of course, use a very different, urgent language — AI hate speech won’t compare.

Narrative’s individual nature ought to be obvious. Writers have tics and style signatures that identify their prose (and catch plagiarists). These idiosyncrasies are nothing less than their life histories.

Start with a writer’s parents, birthplace, childhood. Someone might have absorbed Ciceronian cadences in high-school Latin or gospel-preaching’s rhythms from childhood church or both. Add a professor who insisted on minimal adjectives, a friend who was a Shakespearean actor. Finally, the writer’s mood that day.

How would you tell ChatGPT to imitate this set of unpredictable interactions? History has formed the writer’s personality over years. AI-generated prose lacks this; it’s like expecting to make a 12-year-old Pomerol overnight.

The app is good at imitating styles — a high-probability combination of words — and it’ll get better. It will sound more and more like what you ask it to imitate, whether Borat or the King James Bible. But it won’t sound like the self it doesn’t have.

The bright spot is that the singularity and its accompanying worries aren’t close at all. Some argue it’s just a matter of time. But a transcendent personality, with the layers of influences that make an appealing narrator, isn’t going to emerge from more and more repetitions of a search function, any more than wine will come out when you cut a grape into bits. It’s a different thing entirely.

The dark specter for now is the threat of floods of almost-free junk prose, the equivalent of industrial junk food or fashion but cheaper. A few hundred years ago in the West, everyone wore hand-spun cloth and hand-sewn clothing. Now only the super-rich do. Will our society embrace AI-generated prose as the literary equivalent of mass fast fashion, a cheap substitute that everyone uses occasionally? Will we come to see human-made prose as a luxury like couture clothes?

This will have grave consequences not only for the already-precarious incomes of human writers but for the education of young humans, who will not read much for fun — or turn out the same.

Why does EU tolerate Libya’s smuggler kingpin as migrants drown? (2015)

January 7th, 2023

originally published in Asia Times October 16, 2015 – reposted here in 2023 because unfortunately the smuggling continues despite the arrest of Fahmi Slim and some of his associates

later reprinted on Hudson Institute website:

Zwara, the westernmost town on the Libyan coast, boasts turquoise water, endless sand beaches, and delicious fresh fish. You can even sit at a beach café at night and have an espresso while gazing at the Mediterranean. Over the course of several visits in 2011-12, it seemed the most Europeanized place in Libya. But for the last three months, local sources complain that the fish stores have been empty: every fishing boat is involved in human trafficking instead. And photos of corpses of drowned migrants on those endless beaches have shocked the conscience of the world. On Sept. 19th alone, almost 4,800 migrants were rescued off Libya. An estimated 130,000 have crossed from Libya to Europe this year to date, mainly from Subsaharan Africa.

On Sept. 28, the European Union Naval Force for the Mediterranean (EUNav) announced that on October 7 it would begin “Operation Sophia” to intercept smugglers’ ships and capture their crews, escalating from the current policy of merely tracking them. EU authorities have identified 17 Libyan boats involved in the trade. It is likely most if not all belong to citizens of Zwara.

One question is why the EU authorities made an advance announcement that gives the ship owners time to switch to other vessels. Another is why the announcement was made just as the summer smuggling season draws to a close.

The biggest question is why the EU ignores the fact that migrant smuggling is just one part of the activities of a well-funded mafia that includes not only the expected Libyan citizens, but also EU citizens.

The EU has mainly turned a blind eye to the trade that brings weapons and ammunition into Zwara for the jihadi coalition controlling Western Libya, Libya Dawn, and takes subsidized Libyan diesel fuel in exchange. By perpetuating the Libyan civil war, this trade also takes lives.

A liter of diesel fuel costs about .10 Libyan dinar or .065 euro in Libya, but upwards of a euro in Malta or elsewhere in southern Europe. The UN has banned both sides of the trade, but the EU doesn’t pay attention very often. (See this recent case of a boat impounded by Greece with weapons aboard)

On Oct. 12, the Libyan Central Bank decided to lift the subsidy on diesel and other subsidized goods in the interest of slowing the hemorrhage of cash out of the country. Fuel represents 70 – 80% of the $9 billion Libya has been spending annually on discounted goods.

Anything that will stop the flow of weapons to Libya Dawn is a good thing. They are an unsavory lot, closely linked to Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi, the listed terror group that took part in the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 12 2012. There is hard evidence that Libya Dawn funds the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, the umbrella group of terrorists that includes Ansar. Libya Dawn regularly sends shipments of weapons and ammunition by sea from Tripoli to Benghazi to re-supply Ansar and other terror groups, including IS, who are fighting the Libyan National Army there. The internationally recognized Libyan government is based in the eastern cities of Bayda and Tobruk and controls the east and some of the south; Libya Dawn controls Tripoli and most of the coast from Misrata to the Tunisian border, including Zwara.

To this day, despite its financing of Ansar and its complicity in the smuggling trades, the UN and EU consider Libya Dawn as a legitimate negotiating partner in peace talks with the internationally recognized government. And it looks to many Libyans as though the EU does not want to act against the diesel smuggling and arms trafficking that allows the human smugglers the space to operate.

“The Italians want to stop this migrant business,” said a Zwara citizen, “Bashir,” who is one of a small group who are discreetly acting against the smugglers. “But they don’t care about the other smuggling. We want to stop all! I have met with people from Italian embassy (to Libya, now situated in Tunis) five or six times. They know the names of all the smugglers.”

As Bashir (real name withheld to protect him) and others explain, a group of interlinked crime families, similar to Italian Mafia families and including ties to them, handles human trafficking, diesel smuggling, drug smuggling, and weapons importation. The kingpins have to be taken down — otherwise, people who specialize in human trafficking will just shift to cocaine or weapons or alcohol smuggling for awhile. (Diesel smuggling is the only business that requires specialized ships.) Tolerating one kind of smuggling is like allowing an American Mafia family to continue to control illegal gambling and drug dealing, but to crack down only on prostitution. But many Zwara people think the Europeans don’t really care about any illicit commerce, except that which deposits unwanted migrants on their shores.

As evidence for this, Bashir points to the fact that Zwara’s smuggling king is a shareholder in and a director of a Malta company, and Malta is an EU country.

The smuggling kingpin is Fahmi Slim Mousa Ben Khalifa, aka Fahmi Slim. Slim, a dark-skinned Zwara native said to be about 45, served a few years of a 15-year sentence for drug smuggling in Gaddafi days before the revolution opened the prisons. Now he is so powerful that part of the harbor in Zwara is known simply as “Fahmi Slim’s harbor.” While he is not directly involved with human smuggling currently, locals say that he works with some of the human smugglers in other illegal ventures.

Asia Times Editor’s note: an official of an international agency confirms that Fahmi Slim is involved in fuel-smuggling activities in Libya and is known to French, Maltese and Italian authorities as a person of interest.

The EU could put pressure on Slim and anyone he controls easily: Fahmi Slim is a partner in and director of the Maltese corporation ADJ Trading Ltd. ADJ, under its old name of ADJ Swordfish, also owns a tanker called Basbosa Star that has a history of movements that suggest diesel smuggling. As Zwara does not have an oil terminal – the nearest one is in Zawia, 100km east – any tankers that call at its port are ipso facto suspect. Asia Times editors have seen evidence linking the Basbosa Star and its sister ship, the tanker Amazigh F, in suspicious activity.

Now, new documents1 also show Slim’s name on a ship that is being sold with the permission of the Tripoli-based Libya Dawn anti-government. The ship, carrying the IMO number 7900522, was impounded in Misrata, Libya for diesel smuggling years ago, in 2008 or 2009. It remained in Misrata harbor even after Gaddafi’s fall, slowly decaying, until this spring, when the Libya Dawn coalition that controls Misrata decided it wanted the ship — now derelict — removed.

The vessel is shown on the shipping website Equasis as owned by one “Benkhalifa FSM” since May 22 2015. That is Fahmi Slim’s full legal name. Each ship has a unique IMO number from build to scrap, so it is an important way to identify ships after name changes. On Equasis, the name of the vessel numbered 7900522 is given as Tiuboda 1. Tiuboda is near Zwara, and Fahmi Slim is chairman of a Libyan company named Tiuboda Oil Services, #41992.

On another shipping website,, the IMO number 7900522 is associated with the name Troodos – owned by an obscure Spanish company, AlvarGonzalez SA, using a Georgian flag (5). This appears to be the owner from the time when the ship was impounded.

Currently the ship is being marketed by a Mr Albarasi. He showed a prospective Libyan buyer a three page contract from the Tripoli Ministry of Transportation, stating that he, Emrajaa Embarek Abdul Hamid, bought the ship from the deputy Minister of Transportation, one Abdul Alatef Mahmod Ben Amer. On the first page, the document states that the Acting Minister gave permission for the sale on March 30, 2015.

Reached by Viber and responding to written questions in Arabic, Mr Albarasi said he is the sole owner, that “he owns it according to a contract made with Ports and Marine Transportation” and that “nobody else has anything to do with the ship.” He also wrote, “Troodos is the name of the ship.”

Then, on Sept. 19, reached through the prospective buyer who asked not to be identified, Mr Albarasi admitted that although he had bought the ship from the Tripoli ministry, his partner, one Abdulkarim Nassraat, later sold it to Fahmi Slim, who is now the owner. (Equasis shows Slim bought the ship on May 22.) Zwara sources identify Mr Nassraat as a Zwara native. Note that the sale occurred while the Troodos/Tiuboda 1 was still a derelict ship, unable to move under its own power. This makes it look very much like a “wash” sale.

One piece of Tripoli Port (Lebanon) paperwork –in English – locates the ship, under its Fahmi Slim-registered name of Tiuboda 1, in Tripoli, Lebanon harbor on July 15, “coming from Malta.” Mr Albarasi explained in Arabic, “The ship was towed from Misrata to Malta and the engines were maintained there.” He says the vessel is currently in Beirut obtaining an inspection.

If the EU wants to put pressure on those who have the power to stop human trafficking in Zwara, Fahmi Slim is an excellent place to begin. Why was his ship allowed in Maltese waters? Why is his Maltese company allowed to conduct business? The sale of the “Troodos/Tiuboda 1” to Mr Albarasi and its sale barely two months later to Fahmi Slim suggests that the Tripoli anti-government works hand in glove with Slim. In this instance as in others, Libya Dawn behaves more like a criminal enterprise than a government. Isn’t it time for the EU to bring its formidable soft power to bear to stop these needless deaths by stopping the money flows to the smugglers?

1 ADJFahmiBenKhalifaAppointedDirector ↝
2 Fahmi Slim’s full legal name ↝
3 AlvarGonzalez SA ↝

“Afghanistan Controlled by the Taliban Is Not My Country”

November 29th, 2021

Afghan mayors’ stark choice: Cooperate with the Taliban or flee.
by ANN MARLOWE AUGUST 27, 2021 3:11 PM
originally published in The Bulwark:

As the Taliban advanced in Afghanistan this month, I have been talking to Daoud Sultanzoy and with Tawfiq Amini. Sultanzoy is the mayor of Kabul. Amini is the now ex-mayor of Mazar-e-Sharif. I’ve known them both for a long time and wanted to check on their safety—and to get their sense of what was happening to their country.

What follows are comments from them collected during multiple conversations over the last few days.

Daoud Sultanzoy is still mayor of Kabul. He’s a fascinating, cosmopolitan man. He used to be a pilot for United Airlines; once upon a time he lived in Malibu. I asked him about the August 26 bombing outside Kabul airport.

“Yesterday’s explosion took place in a situation you might compare with the Berlin wall: nobody had control over it. It was a free-for-all with thousands of people. It was very easy to do. Not even the best security force can manage or prevent something like that let alone a group that took power only one week ago. Americans didn’t have control, the Taliban didn’t have control. It’s ironic because the Taliban came in to Kabul with a bloodless take over.”

“It’s anybody’s guess at what the results will be,” continued Sultanzoy. The people who did this got what they wanted: the immediate result is to damage the Taliban and also hamper the rescue operation. Also, the crowd will be thinking twice before they converge on the airport.”

The reality of the takeover is that the mayor of Kabul now has to worry about political damage being done to the Taliban.

Both Sultanzoy and Amini’s positions were appointed, not elected. Each of them had studied engineering and their roles were more like those of city managers. But Sultanzoy is an experienced politician who had been a member of Parliament and ran for president in 2014. Amini is a building contractor and municipal engineer.

Both spent their tenures focused on local issues and when I spoke with them in April about the prospect of the American withdrawal, both were optimistic, with no hysteria about the prospect of a Taliban takeover. “The Taliban cannot expect to walk in and rule this country. People have moved on,” Sultanzoy said. But the situation deteriorated faster than either man predicted. Mazar fell to the Taliban, who cut a deal with the Afghan national army and overcame local militias, on August 14. They walked into Kabul a day later.

Sultanzoy, who had to give up his American citizenship when he ran for president of Afghanistan in 2014, is still in Kabul and still working as of this writing, but with a long-bearded Taliban co-executive, “head of the commission of municipalities” named Hamdullah Nomani.

Nomani had been mayor of Kabul under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001 and the minister of higher education in the Taliban’s former regime. He was sanctioned by the United Nations in 2014 for his Taliban involvement.

Amini is no longer the mayor of Mazar-e-Sharif. He has fled the country and is now in Uzbekistan with his wife and six of his seven children. “Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban is not my country,” he says. His future plans are uncertain.

To some extent the divergence of these two men’s prospects under the new regime reflect the position of their ethnicities and when they came of age. Amini, who is 43, is Uzbek and was a student when the Taliban were last in power. Sultanzoy, who is 66, is Pashtun, and had fought the Soviets during the mujahedin years.

And then there is history. The last time that the Taliban took control of Mazar, on August 8, 1998, there was a massacre of civilians and a house-to-house search for men from ethnic minorities such as the Uzbeks. Here’s a description of the events from Human Rights Watch:

Witnesses described it as a “killing frenzy” as the advancing forces shot at “anything that moved. . . . Thousands of men from various ethnic communities were detained first in the overcrowded city jail and then transported to other cities, including Shiberghan, Herat, and Qandahar. Most of the prisoners were transported in large container trucks capable of holding one hundred to 150 people. In two known instances, when the trucks reached Shiberghan, some 130 kilometers west of Mazar, nearly all of the men inside had asphyxiated or died of heat stroke inside the closed metal containers. Some prisoners were also transported in smaller trucks. As of late October, some 4,500 men from Mazar remained in detention.

Needless to say, their outlooks on the future now differ quite a lot.

The following is a transcript of my conversations with each of them, starting with Daoud Sultanzoy, the mayor of Kabul:

Ann Marlowe: The first question is of course how you and everyone else failed to predict the rapid collapse of the government?

Daoud Sultanzoy: As an ex officio member of the cabinet I had access to security briefings. And we had another parallel meeting with the vice president every day up through last Saturday, August 14, when it was canceled. And then the next day it was all over. All indications in the briefings and status of forces report were that there was not much going on and Kabul was not in imminent danger. My personal calculation was that eventually Kabul would be under siege but hopefully wisdom would prevail and sound minds would come together and there would be a composition of some sort of a government. I also knew that there was a lot of selfishness to hold onto power. But I thought that there would be enough U.S. pressure on Ghani to make sure that a deal would be struck at the table—not the way it happened.

Marlowe: what made you decide to stay on as mayor?

Sultanzoy: I could have gone to the airport when I heard about Ghani’s escape but I’m not a coward and I’m very aware of the judgment that history will make and I also think I haven’t done anything to run away from. A member of the Taliban called me the day they entered Kabul and asked me to stay. I didn’t want the city to have a collapse in services.

If in the future they don’t want me as mayor then I’ll think about whether I can be of service in this country in various other ways, that’s something the future will tell, but I decided to stay and continue until they ask me not to.

I want to mention, today the BBC was interviewing me and one of the questions they asked me was, don’t you think that you betrayed democratic principles by working with the Taliban?

Well, whose democratic principles? Britain, America, or Afghanistan?

European countries were talking to the Taliban in Qatar. What democratic principles were they betraying?

My staying was a testimony to make a statement that we are here, those of us with my political values want the Taliban to notice that we are here, we don’t want to create a void and go thousands of miles away to shed crocodile tears over democracy.

Marlowe: what is the mood in the street?

Sultanzoy: There’s a lot of confusion and of course anxiety because of the economic situation. I’m sure the gravity of the economic situation has not set in yet. At this time the banks have no money because the central bank reserves are frozen abroad. The lack of money in the banks and the lack of payment of salaries and these things will probably create more anxiety and more friction. There will be bumps in prices and this will affect people.

The absence of women is noticeable and they’re more timid in their dressing and much much more conservative. Although previously they had Islamic dress, it’s even more cloaked.

Marlowe: Is there governance now in Kabul?

Sultanzoy: I’ve been assigned a commission—it’s being led by one of the Taliban, Hamdullah Nomani, who used to be their minister for higher education. We just started today. The basic functions of the city are going on, like the sanitation, but right now we’re working on a day-to-day basis because we have to restart our revenue management and our planning and our implementation of those plans.

Some of our actions require cabinet approval and there’s no cabinet yet.

Marlowe: Are we seeing a new Taliban here, in terms of how they are treating people outside their group?

Sultanzoy: At the moment the Taliban are very much milder, but it’s the very beginning. It seems like their higher ups are very aware of the sensitivities of public opinion, the sensitivities of their image, and the sensitivities of the international community.

But how much they can exert that understanding onto their rank and file is a separate issue. They come from different regions with different leaderships and they come from different persuasions in terms of who has done what during the war. The role of each group has created certain expectations for those groups and if those expectations are not met, then I’m sure there will be reactions.

Marlowe: How are they paying their soldiers?

Sultanzoy: So far they haven’t paid them—they’ve been here only less than a week, so they haven’t paid anything yet

Marlowe: As far as you know, have any members of the former government been arrested or imprisoned?

Sultanzoy: I haven’t heard of any major arrests or imprisonments.

Marlowe: Is there any hope that something new and constructive for Afghanistan might come out of this?

Sultanzoy: Unfortunately, the sad story is that the Taliban are talking to the same old hats that they were fighting—they’re talking to Karzai and Abdullah and probably later on to other warlords. And I don’t think that will bode well for the future of this country

Marlowe: Does Karzai have any constructive role in the future?

Sultanzoy: I don’t think so because he has never been very constructive during these years. His role has always been very self-serving and wicked.

Marlowe: How has the reputation of the United States been affected by recent events in Afghanistan? Is there anything specific?

Sultanzoy: I’m thinking of the way the United States left Bagram at night turning off the lights like they ran away in the dark instead of handing over responsibly to the Afghan National Army. [Ed.: This was in early July, without so much as telling the Afghan security forces patrolling the base.]

At least a billion dollars worth of equipment was there and it would have been looted or destroyed. Luckily one Afghan brigadier general came to the rescue and he secured the base at that time.

Marlowe: The waste . . .

Sultanzoy: I worked for almost three years on an Afghan commission working with CSTC-A [Combined Security Transition Command, an American-lead multinational group in charge of managing the Afghan national security forces] to create procedures and bylaws and rules and regulations to turn ten U.S. bases into free-trade zones.

I personally worked thousands of hours on this thing and we turned out a very usable document.

The United States could have done that many months ago when that decision was made to depart, they could have given these airports for that purpose responsibly and if afterwards the government hadn’t been able to use it then it would have been a different situation.

But for reasons I don’t understand, that didn’t happen.

I spoke with Tawfiq Amini as the Taliban approached Mazar. It was an uncertain time. He fled to Uzbekistan on August 10, but returned to Mazar the next day when President Ghani visited the city.

Then Mazar fell on the night of August 14 and Amini went into hiding for three days. The Taliban came to his empty apartment looking for him every day, a neighbor told him. On August 17 he went to the municipality office and resigned the office of mayor. (A new mayor has been appointed by the Taliban, he is a Pashtun.) Two days later, Amini headed for the border, successfully. He did not want to go into further details about his escape because family members are still in Afghanistan..

Ann Marlowe: Why was everyone so wrong in failing to anticipate the Taliban take over?

Tawfiq Amini: We did not expect that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan so quickly, especially Kabul and Mazar-e-sharif. Because of lack of military training, and the government did not have a good management system, that is why the country falls under the Taliban. There was also the conflict between different political groups inside Afghanistan and the intervention of foreign policy.

Marlowe: You are now living in Uzbekistan, how did you escape Mazar?

Amini: I left my beloved homeland and my hometown, Mazar-e-sharif; it was very hard for me. But I had to because of my family’s safety. I crossed by car. I had my visa issued before the Taliban entered Mazar. There are two Taliban checkpoints that I had to cross.

Marlowe: What was the city like when you left?

Amini: Mazar-e-sharif was a ghost town. People were staying inside their houses because of the fear of the Taliban. There were very few stores open. You don’t feel secure inside the city of Mazar.

Marlowe: I heard that from someone else also, who says that 70 percent of the doctors in the city have fled the country. I think we have to remember that because the population is very young, at least half of the people in Afghanistan are too young to remember living under the Taliban the first time . . . the Afghanistan of today is very different.

Amini: As the Taliban announced amnesty to forgive everyone, those who had experience living under the Taliban do not trust the Taliban anymore. They start protesting. You can see most young people are posting on social media because they fear their future and the dream that the Taliban take away.

Marlowe: You are still optimistic about the future?

Amini: I think the Taliban will have a hard time with the young generation. They are a different generation. They know what they want; they won’t listen to the Taliban to control their future. These young people have seen the world now. It’s hard to stop them now.