Burning Afghan schools

The Taliban have made attacking schools—and particularly those educating girls—a focus of their summer offensive. UNICEF estimates at least 100,000 children alone have been shut out of school in the four most volatile provinces in the south, the Taliban's heartland. Most of the schools attacked are co-educational. The Taliban banned girls from school during its ...

By , a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

The Taliban have made attacking schools—and particularly those educating girls—a focus of their summer offensive.

UNICEF estimates at least 100,000 children alone have been shut out of school in the four most volatile provinces in the south, the Taliban's heartland. Most of the schools attacked are co-educational. The Taliban banned girls from school during its 5-year rule and has warned teachers against allowing girls. Suspected militants recently shot dead a lecturer in front of his pupils after he defied them.

Last month, I got in a heated debate with Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris, about whether these are mere proxy attacks on U.S. policy (his view, I think) or whether they reflect a fundamental values divide (my view) and, ultimately, whether the United States and its allies should care about the education of girls and women in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have made attacking schools—and particularly those educating girls—a focus of their summer offensive.

UNICEF estimates at least 100,000 children alone have been shut out of school in the four most volatile provinces in the south, the Taliban's heartland. Most of the schools attacked are co-educational. The Taliban banned girls from school during its 5-year rule and has warned teachers against allowing girls. Suspected militants recently shot dead a lecturer in front of his pupils after he defied them.

Last month, I got in a heated debate with Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris, about whether these are mere proxy attacks on U.S. policy (his view, I think) or whether they reflect a fundamental values divide (my view) and, ultimately, whether the United States and its allies should care about the education of girls and women in Afghanistan.

Whether we like it or not, the battle in Afghanistan is now one for the confidence of the people. And it's clear that neither the Afghan police nor the U.S. and NATO provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) have the wherewithal to fend off attacks on soft targets like schools. The police are underfunded and lightly armed, and the PRTs often don't have the reach (or, in some cases, the will) to respond quickly to marauding Taliban. Confronting these shortcomings is a matter of urgency.  

David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist

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