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by Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Killebrew-Conwell
I've seen a lot of news about how the solution for Afghanistan is schools, and I agree, with reservations. Provided they get a chance, educated Afghans can change this country for the better. But sweeping claims that schooling will fix Afghanistan's ills better than the military coalition rest on a false dilemma.
The largest educational endeavor in Afghanistan is the Afghan National Army's literacy programs, which are designed, funded, directed, and inspected by the military coalition. All soldiers who enlist in the ANA receive literacy training -- ranging from learning numbers so soldiers can read speedometers and bank balances to intensive English language classes for specialties that need them.
No NGO that provides education has facilities and access to a cross section of the Afghan population like coalition forces. Afghan soldiers learn with soldiers from other tribes and places, slowly imbibing nationalism and patriotism as well as literacy. To some in the West, "nationalism" and "patriotism" have negative connotations, but compared to the dangerous limitations of tribalism and its bloody history in Afghanistan, nationalism and patriotism broaden intellectual horizons and provide less volatile perspectives.
Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Killebrew-Conwell, U.S. Army, is an advisor with the Afghan National Army