What role should the United States play in Afghanistan?
Third edition. August 2019. 2012 Franklin Buchanan Prize Winner for outstanding curriculum on Asia.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

When United States military forces entered Afghanistan in late 2001 in pursuit of al Qaeda, few would have guessed how long the United States and its allies would be there. The United States in Afghanistan explores Afghanistan’s past and present and helps students consider the issues and debates surrounding the U.S. presence there. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills (including at least one that focuses on building geographic literacy) and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“I am going to be incorporating the Afghanistan unit into my Modern Global Perspectives class again in this coming semester.  The kids got an enormous amount out of it, and say that for the first time they have some sense of the complexity of our involvement with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Further, for the first time ever, they’ve got a feel for Central Asian geography. It’s a win.” – Kathryn, Social Studies Teacher, Maine

Part I: Afghanistan's People and History

In Part I, students examine the history and culture of Afghanistan. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) The Geography of Afghanistan, and 2) Looking at Afghanistan.

Part II: The Soviet Invasion and the Rise of the Taliban

Part II explores developments after World War II and al Qaeda’s arrival. Students also examine the history of Pakistan’s relationship to Afghanistan. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) Life Under the Taliban, and 2) The Cold War and the Soviet Invasion.

Part III: Afghanistan after 9/11/2001

Part III explores the U.S. role in Afghanistan and the region since 2001.


The Geography of Afghanistan

Students develop map–reading skills and consider how geography has affected Afghan society. Students identify the location of Afghanistan and its neighbors, explore major geographical features, and analyze ethnic distribution in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Looking at Afghanistan

Students analyze photographs of present-day Afghanistan to learn about Afghan life and society. Students consider the benefits and limitations of using photographs as a source for learning about Afghanistan.

Life Under the Taliban

Students assess how Afghans viewed the Taliban by examining excerpts from two memoirs written by people who lived in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

The Cold War and the Soviet Invasion

Students examine the effects of the Cold War and the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan by analyzing letters between U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine three distinct options for U.S. policy toward Afghanistan in preparation for writing their own option.

Synthesis Lesson: Students analyze the costs and benefits of the war in Afghanistan and consider the ethical questions surrounding decisions about war.

Voices From Afghanistan

Synthesis Lesson: Students use primary sources from the Afghan Women's Writing Project to understand the experience of living in Afghanistan.

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