While it’s not yet “Morning in Afghanistan” by any stretch of the imagination, sometimes you can see things there that give you faith in the country’s future—and offer a counter-argument to the view that the Taliban will soon be back in Kabul closing schools, whipping women, and beheading men. I visited Kabul in October to watch some soccer games played by Afghanistan’s first professional sports organization, the Afghan Premier League (A.P.L.). This new, eight-team group was created by Moby Group, the leading independent broadcaster in the country (I work with them). The televised games took the country by storm, demonstrating the great value of entertainment in a country that has suffered through 35 years of war.
The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan for military purposes during the last 11 years. You have to wonder why someone in Washington did not think to invest a lot more in things like a sports league that actually give people pleasure, make them feel that things are improving, and provide something to talk about other than who is killing whom. Popular culture and entrepreneurship are skills Americans know a lot about, but we always seem to lead with our rifles. (The effort was partly funded by the U.S. embassy, in addition to the British embassy and the private sector.)