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dmb1248237 karma

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

In Afghanistan, I decided one of the best ways we could "win the war" (which in my definition, meant helping build a generation of Afghans who wouldn't support Al Qaeda and the Taliban) was to hand out pens and pencils to kids.

George Kennan once wrote in his famous long telegram that "Communism has sowed the seeds of its own destruction." I argue the same is true with the perverted ideology espoused by the Taliban -- but only if we can prevent today's children from becoming tomorrow's terrorists. Terrorism is the tool of the desperate. We must acknowledge that we cannot capture and kill our way to victory for it only takes one idiot with dedication to insight terror through violence. But, we can win if we are able to influence a generation of children to reject the ideology of their fathers.

Pens are key to such a strategy. The Afghan government provides all of its children with free primary education. The government does not, however, provide the children with writing implements. If a child's family does not own a writing implement -- if their parents too poor to afford basic school supplies -- their parents will not send them to school; to do so would be a major disgrace for the family. These pen-less children end up farming and herding animals rather than receiving an education -- until their father likely dies.

The average life expectancy of an Afghan parent is 47. The average Afghan family has 12 children. When an Afghan father dies, the responsibility for care of his children passes to his closest living relative -- usually one of his brothers. That brother likely has a large family of his own to feed -- which he can barely do. Thus, the brother often opts to send his nephews to madrasas where they receive meals and basic religious education via rote memorization of the Koran. Sadly, most madrasas in Afghanistan are run by the Taliban or their clerical allies and are often funded by the Wahhabi school of Islam that dominates Saudi Arabia, and is also the brand of Islam adhered to by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Even parents who live to see their children grow to adults often send children to madrasa because they cannot afford to keep them in their household; sometimes parents simply cannot feed all their offspring, and madrasas take care of this basic need. Madrasas also provide their students with basic school supplies like pens.

Thus, pens are vital to winning this war; they keep kids in government-run schools, which in turn increases the number of literate people, improves the economy, and most importantly, decreases the Taliban's recruiting pool. During my tour of duty in Afghanistan, I ordered my soldiers to always carry a box of pens on our patrols. We ended up handing out over 250,000 pens during our time with the Afghan people. We realized that we can only win this war by preventing today's children from becoming tomorrow's terrorists -- and to do that, we need to teach them to read.

dmb1248218 karma

He says "Thank you. When I come to America I will thank everyone who helped me and my family."

dmb1248217 karma

Many thanks!

dmb1248217 karma

I've got Janis live via facebook chat. He says feel free to ask him anything as well.

dmb1248217 karma

The New Yorker gave an amazing account recently.


Basically, I was pinned down under intense enemy fire, about an hour into the worst firefight of my life. Janis arrived as part of the QRF (quick reaction force) dispatched to us. He jumped into my foxhole and shot two Taliban fighters who had sneaked up behind me. Had he not been their, they would have killed me -- he literally had my back.