In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.
The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code.
As Afghan schools reopen today, the United States is back in the business of providing schoolbooks. But now it is wrestling with the unintended consequences of its successful strategy of stirring Islamic fervor to fight communism. What seemed like a good idea in the context of the Cold War is being criticized by humanitarian workers as a crude tool that steeped a generation in violence.
See also: USAID press release: USAID Supplies Millions of Textbooks to Afghan Children
These textbooks represent a curriculum produced by Afghans under projects supported by USAID and other donors. The series is based on the Afghan national curriculum, used in the 1970s and recently updated in coordination with the Ministry of Education. Both the Afghan Interim Authority's Ministry of Education and USAID conducted separate reviews of the books. These review panels, made up of leading Afghan educators of both genders, removed outdated or inappropriate content. The resulting edited texts are now being printed and distributed across Afghanistan.