July 19, 2013:
Peacekeeping is often most effective when you can implement long-term changes, especially ones that do not involve violence. Case in point is the impact of the massive changes to the education system in Afghanistan only five years after the United States helped overthrow Taliban rule. This turned education from a means of producing terrorists to a major tool for suppressing terrorism. It worked like this, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, only about 900,000 children were in school. These were all religious schools where instruction was in Arabic and curriculum (and textbooks) constantly stressed violence against the hated non-Moslems. All the students were male and little besides religion was taught.
With the Taliban gone Afghan educators (with the help of foreign aid cash and technical assistance) totally revamped the education system. After five years there were over eight million kids in school with nearly 40 percent of them female. Instruction was in one of the two main languages (Pushtun or Dari) and textbooks were rewritten to eliminate all references to religious violence and war in general. Two percent of the students still attend religious schools, but these use the secular school textbooks and simply emphasize religious subjects. The history books are deliberately light on detail about the decades (from the 1970s to 2001) of civil war. Spending too much time on that was thought to be likely to rekindle ancient grudges and feuds.
Nearly a decade of more children getting a basic education has led to the establishment of many private colleges and technical schools. Afghans have noticed that those with technical skills are better paid and rarely without work. The young men and women gaining these skills also learn that there is a global shortage of technically proficient and hardworking people, which leads many of the newly trained Afghans to emigrate. For those who stay, there is plenty of work, and plenty of danger from bandits, religious fanatics, and drug gangs and the addicts they create.