- Read also the post published one year ago on LinkedIn by the Vice President of Development at the American University of Afghanistan, Mr. John T. Pinna:
11 August 2015 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/years-after-war-us-leaves-more-than-cultural-imprint-john-t-pinna
While it is true that some Afghans have adopted some of the culture of the west, I think it necessary to explain that Afghans have assimilated into their culture much more than blue jeans, music, and skateboarding. Americans, NATO, ISAF, the international community, business people, contractors, NGO’s, and educators have been working for over a decade with the Afghan people to provide the skills, guidance, and leadership to enable Afghans to meld these tools into their own culture with an Afghan “brand”. The goal is that Afghanistan will effectively achieve self-reliance. A much more substantive effort is being made on a daily basis in Afghanistan by both Afghans and foreign counterparts which goes beyond the simplistic and superficial exposure to and adoption of the trivial symbols of western cultures.
A buzz exists in such cities as Kabul, Herat, and Mazar e Sharif, where one can see the cities on the move, heavy machinery and cranes are in abundance in an effort to construct commercial as well as residential buildings. Entire cities are moving vertically with Manhattan-like skyscrapers dotting the horizon.
Commerce is booming too. Regulated banking is flourishing, restaurants are full of hungry clients, and products from all over the world can be found in the smallest stores. Afghan products too are being produced and sold regionally with some export to Russia, Pakistan, India, and others. Afghan housing, construction, and realty are moving above pace.
When the Parliament building was recently bombed by the Taliban in early June and the attacks that have occurred this past week, it was not foreign soldiers who defended each sector, but Afghans who defended each site and cleared each area in just a couple of hours. Afghans are fighting for their country and do not expect others to do it for them.
The international community cannot take all the credit for the advancement and modernization of Afghanistan. The Afghan government has led, and wealthy Afghans making wise investments have also played a major role in changing the nation. Yet, the lion share of credit goes to the everyday Afghan innovatively working to create cottage economies, build businesses, and establish their own economic ecosystem. Education is core to the survival of this ecosystem.
Credit is also due to a shining star built on a tract of land that was once a mine-riddled, deserted front line, The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). AUAF is the only university that has a balanced representation from all 34 provinces of Afghanistan in its student body. It is also the first private university that adheres to the American standard of higher education in the same spirit as the American University of Cairo and Beirut. An Afghan institution, AUAF embodies western critical thinking and education standards while balancing its Afghan identity.
Funded in part by tuition, U.S. Department of State, USAID, international private donors, and foundations, and with support from the Afghan government, AUAF educates and trains future Afghan female and male students to assume leadership positions in their own country as well as on a global scale. With goals such as “promoting academic freedom, the unfettered pursuit of knowledge, respect for the principles of equality and fairness without regard to gender, ethnicity, religion, or kinship,” the American University of Afghanistan offers its students a world class education to meet the needs of Afghanistan and the surrounding region.
AUAF is an Afghan institution that teaches students personal responsibility and ethical behavior, how to think critically and to also have the ability to meet the challenges to become competitive global leaders in such areas as business, education, technology, social services, public service, government, law, international relations and other disciplines. Recent graduates of the innovative law school program came away with a Stanford supported legal degree and were among the first homegrown attorneys specifically trained in Afghan law.
Women too are becoming more respected and empowered. Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense gave a $5 million grant for the establishment of the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development, a center which specifically trains and nurtures Afghan women entrepreneurs, teaching them business and economic skills, connecting them with investors for their small businesses, and offering partnering experiences in order to increase their business footprint and expand both domestically and globally.
So the American legacy is not just about eating hamburgers or wearing Hilfiger, but the legacy is about encouraging and supporting Afghans to have the practical hands-on skills and the continued determination and commitment to change their own country for the better as they see fit. For Afghans, it's about taking western tools and methods and adapting those to their own needs and comfort level. The real legacy of the U.S. is about supporting Afghans with both the knowledge and the vision to build and control their own country and destiny.
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