April 15th, 2010
01:54 PM ET

Re-opening a school in the 'Heart of Darkness'

Time's cover story this week is "A Tale of Soldiers and a School," looking at the determined efforts of U.S. troops to try to win hearts and minds by reopening a school deep in the heartland of the Taliban.

"The Pir Mohammed School was built by Canadians in 2005, in Senjaray, a town just outside the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. It is said that 3,000 students attended, including some girls — although that seems a bit of a stretch, given the size and rudimentary nature of the campus. There are two buildings, a row and a horseshoe of classrooms, separated by a playground in a walled compound. No doubt, the exaggerations about the school's size reflect a deeper truth: most everyone in Senjaray loved the idea that their children were learning to read and write — except the local Taliban. They closed the school in 2007, breaking all the windows and furniture, booby-trapping the place, lacing the surrounding area with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), daring the Canadians to reopen it. But the Canadians were overmatched, and it wasn't until December of 2009, when the Americans came to Senjaray, that people began to talk about reopening the school.

It was, in fact, a no-brainer, a perfect metaphor. The Taliban closed schools; the Americans opened them. That this particular school was located deep in the enemy heartland, in a district — Zhari — that was 80% controlled by the Taliban, an area the Russians called the Heart of Darkness and eventually refused to travel through, in a town that will be strategically crucial when the most important battle of the war in Afghanistan — the battle for Kandahar — is contested this summer, made it all the more perfect. "

Read the full story from Time's Joe Klein | See the photo gallery

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Filed under: Life and Culture • Taliban • Troops
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Smith in Oregon

    America and Allied Troops have had 8 long years to support and open schools, encourage Muslim girls and women to take part and educate them in self-defense and ethical behavior.

    Time and again unguarded schools especially those that included girls and women were high priority targets for the Taliban.

    While this would have been encouraging 8 years ago, it is simply to little and far to late now with America pulling its troops out by the end of 2011.

    From day one of the Afghanistan invasion, America should have actively helped to educate the Muslim girls and Muslim women along with actively guarding the existing Afghanistan schools. That might have made a large difference in the future of Afghanistan, but alas the total lack of foresight that routinely plagued GW Bush and Dick Cheney appears to have once again won out.

    April 18, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |