In this lesson, students review the current condition in Afghanistan
and explore the possibility of negotiating with the Taliban. Students
will develop a briefing paper on the current conditions, view recent
news reports, discuss possible conflict resolution techniques for
talking with the Taliban, and develop and evaluate a plan for resolving
the conflict in Afghanistan.
The United States has been indirectly or directly involved with
Afghanistan since 1979. After the Soviet invasion and occupation in
1979, the United States and several of its allies contributed arms and
technical support to the mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan who were
trying to oust the Soviets. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the
United States withdrew its support. Afghanistan went through a period
of upheaval between tribal warlords, al Qaeda, and former leaders
struggling for control. In 1995, a radical fundamentalist Islamic
group, known as the Taliban, emerged and became the government. Along
with the promise of peace and upholding traditional Islamic values, the
Taliban outlawed the opium trade, cracked down on crime, and brought a
level of stability to the country. They also implement a form of
Islamic law that denied Afghans civil rights, individualism, education
for women, and due process. For nearly six years the United States had
little or no interaction with Afghanistan, save for refusing to
recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government. Then, on September
11, 2001, Afghanistan and the United States once again became entwined.
Al Qaeda founder and spiritual leader Osama bin Laden was identified as
the mastermind and inspiration for the attack on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon. He was suspected of living in Afghanistan. The United
States demanded the Taliban extradite him for trial. They refused and
the United States launched air strikes and a limited strategic ground
attack designed to embolden the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan tribes
against the Taliban. Within four months, the Taliban abandoned their
final stronghold in Kandahar and an interim democratic government was
established. In 2003, the Unites States launched an invasion of Iraq
and reduced its efforts in Afghanistan to establish a lasting and
stable government. Efforts to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, who it
was believed escaped across the mountains into neighboring Pakistan,
were also curtailed. For five years, a small NATO force in Afghanistan
tried to bolster the fledgling democratic government and establish
order. During this time the Taliban regrouped and regained control of
several areas in Afghanistan. After the election of Barack Obama as
president of the United States, U.S. military efforts were shifted from
Iraq to Afghanistan to resolve the conflict. In the first several
months of the Obama administration, informal discussions begin on ways
to possibly negotiate with the Taliban toward a peaceful resolution to
- Before students enter the classroom, put up on the overhead or the front board the following:
- Why can’t you reconcile the differences?
- What is needed or could be done to change the situation?
- How would you implement a plan to reconcile the differences?
- Select a few students to share their conversations.
Now tell students that they are going to look at the conflict in
Afghanistan between the Taliban, the Afghan people, and the American
and coalition military. Tell students that they will gather information
on the history of the Taliban in Afghanistan, their status since the
9/11 attacks, and current issues surrounding the conflict to create a
briefing paper. Then explain to them that recently, discussions have
been held to bring some sort of diplomatic solution to the war in
Afghanistan, but that first both sides need to learn how to talk to the
enemy. Their job will be to set up a strategy for such talks.
Part I: Creating a Briefing Paper
- Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students.
- Distribute the “Briefing Paper” student handout and review the instructions.
- After student groups have completed the briefing paper, debrief the information with the entire class.
PART 2: Understanding the Different Points of View
- Why do you think the United States is now interested in talking with the Taliban?
- What do you think would be the reaction of the Taliban to such an offer from the United States?
- What are some of the feelings of the Afghan people in talking to the Taliban?
- What conditions on the ground need to be accomplished by the U.S. for such talks to occur?
- Distribute the graphic organizer, “Inside the Taliban” to each student and review the instructions on the first page.
- Then have students complete the “Common Assumptions” graphic organizer based on the Sennott interview and their other sources.
- Have students evaluate the options by identifying the costs and benefits of each.
- Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world
- Standard 46: Understands long-term changes and recurring patterns in world history
- Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
- Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
- Standard 9: uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media
- Standard 1: Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the environment
- Standard 10: Understands the nature and complexity of Earth’s cultural mosaics
- Standard 13: Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth’s surface