As Afghanistan is once again at the centre of the world's attention, author Khaled Hosseini, whose books introduced innumerable readers to the intricacies and the politics of the South Asian country, said it was "heartbreaking to see the Taliban flag" fly over Kabul and he is "deeply sceptical" about the militant group and their rule.
In an interview with CNN, talking about the turn of power in Afghanistan, Hosseini said, "I woke up one day, turned on my phone and saw that Kabul had fallen. I've been to Afghanistan a number of times since 9/11 and the American invasion of Afghanistan, and it's just absolutely gut wrenching."
The Taliban forces took over the entirety of Afghanistan and breached capital Kabul on Sunday, capping a lightning offensive across the country. Their sudden victory, which comes as the US withdraws from the country following a 20-year-war, has sparked chaos across the country and a visible humanitarian crisis.
The author, who published his debut best-seller "The Kite Runner" in 2003, described the past week as the bleakest days Afghanistan has seen in decades. "I have no idea what the future holds for Afghanistan," he told CNN.
His first book, narrating the tale of Amir and Hassan, two young boys from opposite ends of society whose lives take very different trajectories after the Soviet invasion, captivated millions across the globe.
His later works, "A Thousand Splendid Suns" and "And the Mountains Echoed," both set in Afghanistan at least in part, were similarly well-received. Hosseini's novels show readers around the world a side of Afghanistan that goes beyond war and terror.
Though Hosseini left his birthplace in 1976, his ties to the country and its people run deep. During the interview, the 56-year-old said he worried about his friends and family who are still there, the people he's met on his trips back to the country, the aid workers who assisted refugees and the activists who have been most vocal about human rights.
"I have a very strong emotional bond to the country, to the city, to its people. I actually haven't lived in Afghanistan since 1976, but those formative years were spent there," said Hosseini, who came with his parents to the US in 1980 and still lives in Northern California.
Additionally, he talked about how he initially "supported the American operation in Afghanistan -- millions of Afghans did." However, since then "there were legitimate grievances about the way the Americans did business in Afghanistan. There were incidents over the years that eroded some of the Afghan goodwill and confidence of the Americans."
Yet, Afghans, for the most part, realised that "the American presence in Afghanistan was a buffer against the fall of the country into the hands of insurgents," he opined.
"That's proving to be prophetically true."
Talking about his trust in the Taliban forces, Hosseini said, "My feelings on that echo that of many other Afghans. I'm deeply sceptical. We feel that the Taliban have to prove it with deeds and not with words."
"The world's attention is on the Taliban right now, so it's not quite surprising that they're saying that they're going to respect human rights and that they're going to respect women's rights," he added.