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A View of Afghanistan with Nasir Shansab
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Nasir Shansab was Afghanistan’s leading industrialist until he was forced to leave in 1975. Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he has returned many times seeking to help the Afghan people. In his book Silent Trees, he offers a glimpse of an Afghanistan few Americans ever experienced, before the “freedom fighters” known as the Mujahedeen, before the Taliban and warlords, and even before the Soviet invasion.
Episode Segments:
Clarity from Chaos: Nasir Shansab

In our engaging conversation, Mr. Shansab paints a picture of an Afghanistan many of us are not familiar with. He believes that his home country can be that was again if the US changes course.
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Guest(s) Appearing on this Episode
Nasir Shansab
At the beginning of 1975, Nasir Shansab, Afghanistan’s leading industrialist was worried. As the Afghanistan distributor for Toyota, Mercedes, Michelin, Bosch and others, a major contractor for road construction and maintenance and irrigation projects, his company, Shansab Services, had few rivals in size and scope. However, he had received word that old trumped-up charges from the now-deposed king had been revived following some private statements he had made critical of the new government. Even though Shansab harbored no political ambitions, he was clearly being singled out as threat. He would be arrested within hours, he was told, and could face execution. Using his contacts within and outside of Afghanistan, Shansab and his family were able to flee the country. He settled in Germany, hoping that the situation would change and allow him to return to Afghanistan, but the Soviet invasion in 1979 made that impossible. He instead came to the United States and was granted political asylum in 1980. His concern for Afghanistan and its people remained strong. In 1981, it became clear that a native Afghan resistance had begun and Shansab decided to travel to the region to observe and even advise the Mujahedeen. He continued to make regular journeys to the region for the next seven years. It was on these trips to Pakistan and then the mountains of Afghanistan that Shansab met with and developed relationships with most of the major leaders of the resistance: Hekmatyar, Rabbani, Mojaddidi, Gailani, Sayaf, and others. He even had a breakfast meeting in Pakistan with Osama bin Laden, the Saudi national who was giving money to the resistance. It was at this meeting that Shansab took notice of bin Laden’s arrogance and contempt for the Afghan people. The rest of the decade was taken up with the cause of Afghan resistance to the Soviet army. Shansab was regularly advising American officials. He and others, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, told the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan that the Afghan resistance was failing and that their greatest need was advanced weapons to neutralize Soviet air superiority. This, along with many other events, put in motion a change in strategy, culminating in a ceremony at the White House in which a new policy was formally articulated. Shansab was among the assembled guests and reporters when President Reagan signed a commitment that the United States would not just side with the resistance, but actively support the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

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