Peace Corps Afghanistan: 2008

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Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan from 1962 to 1976. Although President Bush proposed returning the Peace Corps to the country in 2002, the security situation in the country has not allowed a return to Afghanistan but the legacy of the Peace Corps' fourteen years in Afghanistan lives on in the many RPCVs who lives were deeply affected by their work in the country and in the many RPCVs who served in other countries but who now work in Afghanistan in civil affairs, diplomacy, as aid workers in NGO's and as journalists. RPCVs with an Afghan connection include Thomas Gouttierre who became Director of the Center of Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1974; Sarah Chayes (RPCV Morocco) who since 2002 has been responsible for rebuilding homes and schools, creating employment for about 300 people and launching today's most popular local radio station in Kandahar; James Rupert (RPCV Morocco) who has reported on on Afghanistan since the 1980's for Newsday, Bloomberg, and the Washington Post; and Ben Rosen (RPCV Iran) who since 1995 has worked with Teacher's College to produce textbooks, design curriculum, recruit teachers and help local ministries take over these tasks and who returned to Afghanistan in 2003 to help reopen the college.

Peace Corps was active in Afghanistan from 1962 to 1976. Although President Bush proposed returning the Peace Corps to the country in 2002, the security situation in the country has not allowed a return to Afghanistan but the legacy of the Peace Corps' fourteen years in Afghanistan lives on in the many RPCVs who lives were deeply affected by their work in the country and in the many RPCVs who served in other countries but who now work in Afghanistan in civil affairs, diplomacy, as aid workers in NGO's and as journalists. RPCVs with an Afghan connection include Thomas Gouttierre who became Director of the Center of Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1974; Sarah Chayes (RPCV Morocco) who since 2002 has been responsible for rebuilding homes and schools, creating employment for about 300 people and launching today's most popular local radio station in Kandahar; James Rupert (RPCV Morocco) who has reported on on Afghanistan since the 1980's for Newsday, Bloomberg, and the Washington Post; and Ben Rosen (RPCV Iran) who since 1995 has worked with Teacher's College to produce textbooks, design curriculum, recruit teachers and help local ministries take over these tasks and who returned to Afghanistan in 2003 to help reopen the college.


Contents

2008

2008: Sarah Chayes writes: Benazir Bhutto's decision to anoint her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, as her successor tarnishes her memory

"Yet, in passing the mantle of the party she led on to her son - as if it were a family heirloom for her to dispose of as she wishes - Bhutto acted in contradiction to the very principles of democracy she claimed to incarnate. Saluted in the West for her sparkling vitality and genuine courage, the decision to anoint her son as her successor tarnishes that memory. It hamstrings the forces still struggling to establish open, civilian rule in Pakistan, and provides arguments to those in the region who believe that the very word "democracy" is just a cynical charade." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Boston Globe. "Democracy Led Astray" January 10, 2008.


2008: RPCV Suzanne Seidl Griffin survived a suicide bombing attack in Kabul, Afghanistan while working as senior project manager of education for the Save the Children USA program in Kabul

The attack took place at the Serena Hotel in Kabul on Jan. 14 and was the deadliest direct attack on a hotel in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Griffin was in the gym during the attack. "There was blood on the floor all the way to the kitchen. There was a lot of blood in the lobby," Griffin told the Associated Press. "There were shell castings outside." Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Observer Online. "College Alumna Survives Bombing" January 16, 2008.


2008: RPCV Suzanne Seidl Griffin describes horror of Monday's Kabul raid

With a shaking voice, she recalled that they all kept quiet and even turned their cell phones to ring silently. When Griffin was finally evacuated, the 62-year-old senior project manager of education with Save the Children USA in Kabul said she had to step over a woman's lifeless body. Militants throwing grenades and firing AK-47s stormed Kabul's most popular luxury hotel Monday evening, breaching heavy security and hunting down Westerners. At least six people were killed, including an American and a journalist from Norway. The coordinated assault at the Serena, including a thunderous suicide explosion, killed six people and could signal a new era of brazen Taliban attacks. "There was blood on the floor all the way to the kitchen. There was a lot of blood in the lobby," said Griffin, of Seattle, told The Associated Press. "There were empty shell casings outside." "Thank God I didn't get into the shower because then we heard gunfire, a lot of it. It was very close, close enough that plaster came off the ceiling," Griffin said. "We all just sat on the floor and got as far as we could from any glass. ... We turned our phones on silent." Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: South Bend Tribune. "Saint Mary's Grad Describes Horror Of Monday's Kabul Raid" January 16, 2008.


2008: Afghanistan RPCV Chet Orloff was director of the Oregon Historical Society and editor of the largest legal publication on the West Coast

In 1972, Orloff served with the Peace Corps in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan, an area he equates topographically with Bend, Ore. He said guns and poor living conditions were everywhere during his visit--a time that he said marked the early formation of the Taliban. "I had daily contact with Pashtun people that are now in their 30s and 40s, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're current Taliban," he said. "I had a revelation while working with the people who, despite the political atmosphere and rough conditions, were very proud to be a part of this particular culture. I realized there is a lot of will in people to preserve what is their own, and I wanted to bring that home." Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: PSU Daily Vanguard. "Making History" January 16, 2008.


2008: RPCV Jan West shared stories, memories, and experiences with students while volunteering in Afghanistan

According to the Peace Corp more than 1.600 Peace Corps Volunteers lived and worked with the people of Afghanistan from 1962 until 1979, when Peace Corps pulled out of the country. West began her lecture dawning the traditional Afghani chadari and speaking from the perspective of a young woman growing up in Afghanistan. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Eureka Reporter. "Promoting Peace" April 11, 2008.


2008: Obituary for Afghanistan RPCV Susan Callahan

She first met her husband in Bamian, Afghanistan, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer and they later married in Beirut, Lebanon, where Mr. Callahan was assigned to the American Embassy as a foreign service officer with the United States Information Agency. Mrs. Callahan, along with her husband and family, lived in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Yemen, the Philippines, Iraq, South Africa, Nigeria, and India. During those years, Mrs. Callahan was often a teacher of English as a second language. Later, during her husband's career in the State Department, she also served in the U.S. Consulates in Lagos, Nigeria, and New Delhi, India. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Cape Cod Online. "Susan Callahan" June 6, 2008.


2008: Mark Schneider speaks at Florida State University as part of the Human Rights and National Security in the 21st Century summer lecture series

“The resurgence of the Taliban today (means) they are more capable than they were two years ago,” said Mark Schneider, senior vice president of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization which advises governments on policies to avoid violence. Mark Schneider, Senior Vice President of the International Crisis Group in Washington, was the second Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (El Salvador, 1966–68) to head the agency. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: The News-Press. "Peace Advocate Speaking At Fsu Warns Of Crisis In Afghanistan" June 23, 2008.


2008: James Rupert writes: Pakistan Sends Troops Against Taliban in Peshawar After Attacks

Local groups of Islamic militants, many using the label "Taliban," have stepped up attacks this year across a 220-mile (354-kilometer) swath of Pakistan's ethnic Pashtun region adjoining Afghanistan. For the first time, they've taken control of villages just outside Peshawar, which is the seat of government for the North-West Frontier Province and for a semi- autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Area along the border. Pakistan's renewed vow to use force if necessary against the Taliban and allied militant groups is ``a good sign," said Mehmood Shah, a retired brigadier and former security chief of the tribal area on the border. Any negotiations ``must be carried out with the military option on the table," he said in a telephone interview, because hard-line militants among the border tribes will back down only under force. Journalist James Rupert, head of Newsday's international bureau in Islamabad, Pakistan began his career abroad as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching mechanics and welding in Morocco. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Bloomberg. "Pakistan Sends Troops Against Taliban In Peshawar After Attacks" June 27, 2008.

2008: Sarah Chayes continues work in Kandahar despite deteriorating security

"I was very happy to see NATO come [to Kandahar], but disappointed that NATO hasn’t altered their policy of using corrupt Afghan officials," she said. "They have given a blank cheque to the local government authorities and you simply can’t do that. Fighting corruption is a daily process. You can’t just remove a few officials and consider the task complete." According to Chayes, the ongoing process of NATO soldiers killing insurgents is negated by the fact that the unchecked corruption of the local government is creating an even greater number of volunteers taking up arms to join the resistance. She said the solution for this is for NATO to take firm control of the Afghan administration that they are fighting to prop up. "These corrupt Afghan officials will respond to foreign pressure because they know they are in power thanks to NATO," said Chayes. "If NATO wasn’t here the Karzai regime wouldn’t last five days or five minutes because the people are so upset." Apparently, the comments former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier made about the Kandahar governor being corrupt and in need of replacement were greeted with glee by the local citizens. Following the public exchange and Bernier’s subsequent withdrawal of his statements, Canadian officials told Chayes privately they wanted to discipline the governor, but the Americans would not allow Canada the latitude to do so. This notion clearly upset Chayes. "If the Afghan government is a criminal enterprise and Canada’s stated mission is to support the government of Afghanistan, then what the hell are you achieving?" she asked. "Is NATO here to make five people happy or to make the whole province happy?" Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: The Trentonian. "Brave American No Fool About Life In Kandahar" June 29, 2008.


2008: Sarah Chayes teaches Marines about Afghanistan

Chayes spoke in detail about the interactions between local governments, the local community and even the American military presence in Afghanistan. She explained how each affects the other and how each group perceives current conditions, adding that popularity in Afghanistan is largely determined by how people treat each other. "You need to focus on what's going on in the community," Chayes said. By contributing to the community, an individual can gain support from the people, she added. Chayes spoke about Afghan social groups Marines may encounter while deployed to Afghanistan, and how the war is fought on a "different kind of battlefield." "Not only is it a war in the traditional sense, but it's about how interaction with the population affects the success of operations." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: U.S. Marine Corps Bases Japan. "Author Teaches Marines About Afghanistan" July 11, 2008.


2008: The main force behind the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Afghan Studies program is its director, Thomas Gouttierre, whose fascination with Afghanistan started when he was a Peace Corps volunteer there in the mid-1960's

"Unlike the days when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan, we can call people on cell phones, use email and we have excellent communication," said Thomas Gouttierre. Gouttierre and his staff in Omaha are working long-distance to improve education in Afghanistan. "What we are doing is trying to provide in-service training to teachers so that there is a kind of standard body of teaching pedagogy that each teacher, regardless of his or her training, is following," he said. Although Gouttierre visits Afghanistan every year, he says the Taliban guerrillas have made it too dangerous for U.S. students to work there. He says the Taliban threaten Afghans on a regular basis in some border areas. "They are able to move back and forth across the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan and into villages and pass out night letters suggesting to people that 'we are watching you and if your daughters go to school or your wife teaches school or you work with the Americans, we are going to get you and we are going to get your family," said Gouttierre. Gouttierre says he thinks the vast majority of Afghans have faith in U.S. efforts to help their country, but they are made uneasy by the fact that Osama bin Laden and others involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 remain free. Thomas Gouttierre, dean of International Studies and Programs and director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Afghanistan in the 1960's. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: VOA. "University Of Nebraska At Omaha Supports Afghanistan Recovery" July 16, 2008.


Reference

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