An Introduction to the Cultures of Afghanistan. This course examines Afghanistan's disparate cultures through the lenses of (1) Islam; (2) ethnicity; (3) tribe; (4) Islamist ideology; (5) Afghan history; and (6) gender. The course also explores the evolution of Afghanistan's distinct military culture.
A History of Afghanistan. This course provides an overview of Afghanistan's extensive historical tradition, its dealings with foreign powers and the challenges of creating a cohesive nation state. Part one of the course covers Afghanistan's early history, including the invasions of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Timur. The second part examines the rise of the Afghan monarchy, the Anglo-Afghan wars, and the creation of the modern state. Part three focuses on Afghanistan's often ambivalent attitude toward modernization in the twentieth century. The bulk of the course is focused on events following the 1978 communist coup in Kabul and includes the 1979 Soviet invasion, the 1980s resistance, the 1990s civil wars, and the rise, fall and second rise of the Taliban. At the end of the course, students will have a good understanding of the broad trends in Afghanistan's history. They will also be able to grasp the impact of that history on the country's society, culture, security policies, and foreign relations.
Afghanistan Provincial Overviews. Each presentation focuses on one of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Emphasis is placed on physical geography, political geography, human terrain (ethnicities, tribes, etc.), history, economy (crops, local industry, mining), basic development data, politics, and security. Furthermore, each briefing also includes a breakdown of these factors at the district level. These presentations are intended to fill existing requirements for basic data on Afghanistan's provinces and districts. The delivery format is Powerpoint.
Pashto Language and Culture Initial Acquisition Course: The Pashto Initial Acquisition is a 6-month intensive language and culture course tailored for US SOCOM personnel starting with no knowledge of the language and aims for a 1+/1+ speaking/reading as measured by the Oral Proficiency Interview. At the end of the course, the students will have the ability to understand basic written and spoken Pashto as well as participate in daily conversation and carry out daily tasks. The cultural aspect of the course is to allow students to better understand the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to prepare them for service in the respective countries. This 6-month course is 8 hours/day, 5 days/week.
Items of Interest
There is a vital link between good intelligence and a strong cultural awareness of the intelligence target. Unfortunately, in its efforts to combat al-Qa'ida and the Afghan insurgency, the U.S. intelligence community has often come up short in providing war fighters and policy makers with the answers they need on Afghanistan itself. The top U.S. intelligence officer in Kabul recently co-authored this paper, which is a stinging indictment of U.S. intelligence priorities and strategies. It also drives home the fundamental message that understanding culture and language often fundamentally improves the quality of intelligence. To read the whole working paper on Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan, click here.
Some experts believe that tribes are the key to successful counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. In this persuasive article, a U.S. Army Special Forces officer describes how the Afghan war can be won "one tribe at a time." To read Steven Pressfield's blog and Major Jim Gant's article, "One Tribe at a Time," click here.