Jenn Round is our longest serving teaching fellow, and she’s been reporting back from Kabul for more than 18 months. When our weekly calls began, she and I mostly stuck to discussing the project. Now, however, when there is little textbook business to discuss, we fill the time with other topics.
It’s in this way, through secondhand snippets about Jenn’s students, that I’ve learned the textured details of student life in Kabul. I’ve heard stories about a new “law club,” job-market jitters, even fledgling romances. For one hour each week, the lives of Jenn’s students are transmitted across continents, and reassemble themselves in my San Francisco apartment.
These are more than idle tangents. They serve as reminders that Afghanistan is not simply a place where military strategies play themselves out. It is home to a population of individuals with vibrant lives, personal ambitions, and, as history attests, ample capacity for endurance.
Much of our focus on Afghanistan is on the upcoming withdrawal of US troops (which the Obama administration has made clear will be concluded in 2014). We argue about failures and successes, profits and losses. Almost invariably, somewhere beneath these discussions lies an unwieldy question: What happens next?
America’s military presence is an important issue for Afghanistan, but it is not all encompassing. Afghanistan has experienced such transitions before, and the choice it now faces is not necessarily between cataclysmic violence and peace.