An Afghan In America

001024_Rather_Afghanlll_cab driver CBS

Few countries have suffered more or caused more consternation in the world community in recent years than Afghanistan.

The United States does not recognize its Islamic Taliban government, yet, as CBS News Anchor Dan Rather reports, many ordinary Afghans still view the United States as a friend. And so do some extraordinary Afghans.
In many ways, Jalal Wardak's story is the story of so many people who have come to America, working hard to find their way and raise a family in a new country. Wardak lives outside Washington, D.C. He came from Afghanistan almost nine years ago and now works as a taxi driver.

That is the part of Wardak's story that is so common. There's another part that isn't.

Jalal Wardak is also Major Wardak, a fighter pilot for the air force of Afghanistan's controversial Taliban government.

Inside Afghanistan
Read the rest ofCBS News Anchor Dan Rather's series of reports:

Part One: Aftermath Of A War Of Terror

Part Two: Afghanistan's Veil Of Oppression

He lives in the United States and makes some of his living here. But then he goes to Afghanistan to fly fighter jets for a government that the United States does not recognize.

"I don't say Taliban are perfect," says Wardak. "Of course, probably they might have some mistake but I could say they are the best. Inside Afghanistan right now they are the best people…to control the government."

Though a big supporter, Wardak is not a member of the Taliban, who suffer international scorn both for violating the rights of women and for harboring suspected terrorist Osama Bin Laden. The Taliban has been sanctioned by the United States.

"If America think Afghan their enemy, that's their business. But we always think America is our good friend…who help us during the Russian war," he says.

In the 1980's, the U.S. backed Afghan freedom fighters in their 10-year war against the Soviet Union. Wardak was flying for the other side, the Russian-backed communist government of Afghanistan. Or so it appeared.

"For almost 10 years I was a spy inside the Russian air force," he says.

Wardak hated the communists so much that one day in 1989 he jumped into his fighter jet and defected, lnding in Pakistan. He was 22-years-old. Before long, he came to America.

"When I am over here I miss every single things from Afghanistan," says Wardak.

He desperately wants to help his country, which lies shell-shocked from years of war. Children play in former battlefields that have yet to be de-mined. The economy has collapsed and inflation runs rampant. A terrible drought leaves children malnourished and more than 5 million people have been driven from their homes.

And Under Secretary Of State Thomas Pickering doesn't see the conditions in Afhganistan getting any better.

"This is a country that seemingly has lurched off onto the wrong track and seems to be headed headlong down it," says Pickering

But this Washington cab driver thinks Washington has got it wrong. Wardak believes so strongly that the Taliban has begun to repair Afghanistan that he's willing to defend its skies.

He says he can draw a distinction between being an American and being an Afghan.

Says Wardak, "I am Afghan. And America is a second home for me."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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