Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Victory Through Literacy

A while back Alan was having a beer over at FLG castle and we had a disagreement about the nature of Afghanistan. Alan was upset it's always portrayed as a brown, mountainous country with loads of bomb craters when it has a long history of culture, including universities. My contention was that, while true, almost every country has universities and culture. The problem is that the vast majority of the populous, in particular the ones we are trying to train, cannot read. This makes the job much tougher than in Iraq, for example.

Here's an excerpt from a Danger Room post:
The American-led strategy in Afghanistan relies on training enough local forces to let the Afghans take over their own security. Right now, only 18 percent of those 243,000 cops and grunts have more than a Kindergarten-level ability to read. Which means they’ve got major trouble doing everything from keeping track of their gear to following a battle plan to getting paid, the general in charge of the NATO training effort says. In other words: If these local troops can’t learn their ABCs, this war is stuck.


arethusa said...

Not to mention a significant portion of the Afghan populace is female and therefore not considered educable by hard-liners.

The Ancient said...

1) What percent of cultured, well-educated Afghans remain in the country? (I suspect less than half, perhaps much less.)

2) Semi-off-point: Someone -- perhaps Dexter Filkins -- wrote a story a couple years ago regarding the systematic slaughter of perhaps a thousand "cultured, well-educated" Iraqis in the immediate aftermath of Saddam's overthrow. Some were killed by Baathist dead-enders, others by al-Qaida, but the goal was always the same: to eliminate the sort of people who were capable of creating, administering and sustaining a genuinely democratic state. I would imagine their Afghan counterparts died or fled decades ago.

Withywindle said...

What sort of beer was Alan drinking? "Mountainous, barbaric, illiterate" sounds about right. "Gotten worse since 1980" is probably about right, "but howlingly backward in the golden 1970s" is too.

Actually, I could see where the most literate cohort of Afghans ever was educated in exile in Pakistan. In fundamentalist madrassas, of course.

George Pal said...

Once Upon A Time in Kabul

If this doesn’t indict ISLAM as a retarded ideology inherently dangerous to all living things nothing will. ISLAM should be banned wherever two or more people are gathered together.

Alan Howe said...

According to UNICEF, the following applies in Afghanistan:

Total adult literacy rate (%), 2003–2008* 28%

Primary school net enrolment/ attendance (%), 2003–2008* 61%

There are plenty of literate Afghans available to work in the security forces (more than 3 million) and plenty more on the way, including girls and young women. But, as I argued earlier, one would not know that from the reporting we routinely see.

"Mountainous, barbaric, illiterate" falls in the categories of stereotype and error.

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