Baktash Ahadi '05
Alumni Award: Outstanding Recent Alumnus
In 1984, when Baktash Ahadi ’05 was three years old, he and his family fled their native Kabul, Afghanistan, after his father, a government employee, refused to join the Communist regime. After surviving a harrowing seven-day journey on horseback through the Hindu Kush mountain range to Pakistan, during which they were shot at and nearly killed several times, Ahadi’s family eventually settled in Carlisle, Pa.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Ahadi interrupted his graduate studies in global security at Johns Hopkins University to return to Afghanistan for an equally harrowing mission. Uniquely positioned as both a United States citizen and an Afghan native who speaks the Dari language, he initially worked in western Afghanistan for a U.S. and NATO Afghan advisory group. He supported counterinsurgency efforts to both win “the hearts and minds” of Afghan locals and engage them in order to determine their perceptions on a wide range of topics from opium production to Taliban roaming courts.
Serving as a mentor and translator for the U.S. Special Operations Task Force since last year, Ahadi is a liaison between the special forces, the U.S. Agency for International Development and locals who are developing schools, clinics and wells—in addition to training Afghan commandoes. Although technically not on the front lines, he has been in fatal firefights. Two of his unit’s U.S. special forces advisors and four Afghan commandos died during a recent mission.
As American troops withdraw, Ahadi is uncertain how U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan will eventually play out. “But personally,” he says by phone from Afghanistan, "I’ve been here so long because I feel that, on a daily basis, I’m making some kind of positive difference."
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