Despite progress since 2002, in 2011 (last year available) Afghanistan was 15th from the bottom among all nations according to the UN Human Poverty Index in quality of life, and far below all of its neighbors, based on high infant mortality, short life expectancy, and low literacy rates. Again despite considerable progress, expected years of schooling for girls is among the lowest in the world (7.2 years in 2013 according to the UN), and much lower than for boys (11.3 years).
Military force is not capable of making the social changes needed to advance Afghanistan. We must address the lack of hope and opportunity that encourages people to join groups like the Taliban. In Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn make a compelling case for putting the education of girls at the top of the list of efforts to do so. And private citizens are much more capable of making a difference than the military or other government agencies.
A well built, functioning school provides a healthy and safe environment for a community's children, and a place where they learn the skills they need to become productive and peaceful adults. Many school buildings have been constructed in Afghanistan in recent years. But a building alone does not make a school. To be successful, it must be supplied, have qualified teachers, be fully supported by its community, and become fully sustained by its community. That's our long-term goal.
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