Truman National Security Project

Huffington Post: Winning the War on Terror One Child at a Time

By Stephanie Dreyer | 12.9.12

Matt Zeller, Truman Project Fellow, writes on literacy rates and education amongst children in Afghanistan.

I owe my life to my interpreter in Afghanistan, Janis. On more occasions than I care to remember, his sage advise or expert marksmanship saved me and numerous other American soldiers.

After one particularly intense firefight, I asked Janis why he fought on our side and not with the Taliban. What he said shocked me, “My mother would kill me if I fought for them.”

“Janis, I don’t understand, why would your mother kill you if you fought for the Taliban?” I asked.

Janis calmly responded:

“Matt, you have so much to learn about Afghans. In Afghanistan, men cannot fight without the blessings of their mothers. My mother can read and write for herself. She has read the Koran for herself and knows what the Taliban preach is bullshit. She insisted that my siblings and I learn to read and write for ourselves so that we would not be corrupted by their lies.”

Literacy is not only the path to social mobility in Afghanistan and numerous other countries, it is also the only truly effective long term weapon we have against ilk like the Taliban and al Qaeda. Literacy allows one to independently access the marketplace of ideas, to think for oneself, and draw one’s own conclusions. The Taliban are so afraid of a literate Afghan population that they constantly resort to blowing up schools — they need an illiterate and ignorant population in order to maintain their ranks.


Read full text here.