Education About Asia: Online Archives

What History Can Teach Us About Contemporary Afghanistan

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Almost every American today knows Afghanistan is located in the heart of Asia. We were not always that informed. When my wife and I learned in the summer of 1964 that we would be going as Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) to Afghanistan, our family members and friends thought we were off to Africa. But after the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the ensuing military and civil presence of the US in that country, Americans are familiar with even more than the location of Afghanistan.

Yet images today of Afghanistan are rarely positive. There is little reporting on that nation’s rich culture and history, the renowned hospitality of the Afghan people, or its stunning physical beauty. Instead, reports of suicide bombings, loss of civilian and military lives, gender inequality, religious extremism, poppy cultivation, and allegations of corruption and election fraud dominate the news and suggest a troubled future.

Editor’s Note: A shorter version of this article by Thomas Gouttierre, “Images of Afghanistan,” appeared in the Omaha World-Herald, February 28, 2011, 1–2.



Dupree, Louis. Afghanistan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Gutman, Roy. How We Missed the Story: Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Hijacking of Afghanistan. Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace Press, 2008.

Poullada, Leon B., and Leila D. Poullada. The Kingdom of Afghanistan and the United States, 1828–1973. Crete, NE: Dageforde Publishing, 1995.

Rashid, Ahmed. Descent into Chaos: The US and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

Tomsen, Peter. The Wars of Afghanistan:  Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers. New York: New York Public Affairs Books, 2011.


Fraser, George M. Flashman, Flash for Freedom! New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead Books, 2004.

Kipling, Rudyard. Kim. Simon and Brown, 2011.


The Kite Runner with Khalid Abdalla. Directed by Marc Forster. Dreamworks Video, 2008. 128 minutes. English.

The Man Who Would Be King with Sean Connery, Michael Caine. Directed by John Huston. Warner Home Video. 1975. 129 minutes. English.

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