In January 2002, shortly after the fall of the first Taliban government in Kabul, then-Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai flew to Washington. There, he met with then-U.S. President George W. Bush, visited Afghan diaspora groups, and attended the opening of Afghanistan's embassy, which had been closed since 1997.
Standing outside the embassy in the quiet, upscale neighborhood of Kalorama, Karzai celebrated its opening as a turning point in U.S.-Afghan relations. "It's a thrilling moment for us to have Afghanistan recognized again as a notion state [and] as a government," he said. The Taliban's rule in Afghanistan had been marked by brutal crackdowns, public executions, repression against minorities and women, and the destruction of cultural moments. With the embassy open and the United States as partners, it was time to rebuild Afghanistan into a functioning and stable democracy.
The U.S. government, which spent around $2 trillion in Afghanistan for two decades, could have apportioned some tens of thousands of dollars to keep the Afghan Embassy in Washington open, Curtis and other former U.S. officials who worked on Afghanistan policy have argued.
"If finances were the problem, the U.S. government could have provided limited funding to keep at least some staff to keep the doors open for symbolic reasons," Curtis said.
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