From The Kabul Cable:
Educating Against Taliban InfluencePosted: October 30, 2012
I came across an interesting article at The EastWest Institute this week entitled “Battling the Taliban’s Influence in Schools” and thought it made a few good points. It also missed a couple of key takeaways and since I’ve been reading up on Afghanistan’s Civil Society actors, transition and ISAF’s efforts to conduct outreach to the general population I thought it might be worth reviewing and commenting on.
There is a serious battle going on for access to and influence over the population in Afghanistan and there are many entities on the field. GIRoA is struggling to stand up and take over the primary responsibility for security but it is hampered by limited government capacity, corruption at the highest levels and an air of uncertainty regarding continued financial and military support in a post-ISAF Afghanistan. ISAF is executing its drawdown and is focused shoring up nascent institutions and transitioning responsibility to the ANSF and GIRoA. Meanwhile, across Afghanistan the general population is looking for indicators of just which way the wind will blow on 1 January 2015. The Taliban continues to impose its will on the people wherever they can by employing IEDs and suicide bombers which result in high civilian casualties, further undermining civilian trust in their government. The Taliban has also maintained a steady campaign of fear, violence and intimidation whenever they fail to persuade communities to follow their mandates.
“When U.S. Major Lee and Captain Gil entered Ganat Kahiyl High School in Zormat District, Paktia Province in Eastern Afghanistan, a local teacher slipped them a small note: “The Taliban have visited our school and forced their curriculum upon us. Can the government help?” If the teachers did not comply, they would have suffered the consequences. This was not an empty threat. Insurgents burned down Sahakh High School in the district a couple months earlier for teaching girls and the government’s curriculum.”
The opening paragraph of the EastWest article shows the strengths and weaknesses of almost all the actors in this drama. When I read this, the first thing that jumped out at me was that the teacher passed the note to American troops who were part of a Civil Affairs/Provincial Reconstruction Team. That the teacher had the courage to pass the note at all is a good sign, but the implication here is that the PRT—not GIRoA, the ANSF, village leaders or even district government—is seen as the legitimate and primary power broker in Paktia and for anybody keeping score that’s a problem.
I am not surprised that the Taliban is burning down schools and threatening teachers in Paktia but I struggle a bit with the notion that the their conduct should be referred to as “influence.” While visiting a school and threatening to burn it down if it doesn’t teach approved Taliban curriculum is certainly one method of exerting your will over the population, it is temporary and contingent upon two things. ...
Much more of this insightful analysis from one of our own, on the ground. Go read it all here.
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