Using Books to Defeat the Taliban (The New York Times)

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Published: November 4, 2012

President Obama and Mitt Romney have both pledged to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2014. But neither man has discussed the importance of establishing schools for the children of a nation where more than half the population is under 14. As the Taliban regain control — which they will — misogynic policies will be enforced with impunity. As the recent assassination attempt on the 14-year-old champion of secular education Malala Yousafzai, shows: the Taliban are scared of books, not bombs.

Investing in an Afghan educational infrastructure is the most cost effective long-term strategy for regime change. For the annual cost of keeping one soldier in Afghanistan, 20 schools could be established. Before we leave, we should pledge at least a billion dollars to establish secular schools for boys and girls in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. The funds should go toward hiring qualified teachers, developing standardized curricula, and constructing a robust infrastructure. If armed protection for such schools is required, it should come from locally hired forces. Spent right, these dollars could achieve what B-52 bombers couldn’t.

Faheem Younus, Baltimore

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