What role should the United States play in Afghanistan?
Third edition. August 2019.
2012 Franklin Buchanan Prize Winner for outstanding curriculum on Asia.

When United States military forces entered Afghanistan in pursuit of al Qaeda in 2001, few would have guessed that the United States and its allies would still be there today. In The United States in Afghanistan, students examine the history, culture, and geography of Afghanistan, including the arrival of the Taliban and al Qaeda and the U.S. role there since 2001. This unit prepares students to articulate their own views on the future of the U.S. role in Afghanistan.

Preview this unit. Preview includes the Table of Contents for the Student Text and the Teacher Resource Book as well as a student reading excerpt and one lesson plan.


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

Working cooperatively, students develop and present three options for U.S. policy in Afghanistan to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate.

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

Voices From Afghanistan

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

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Ahmed, Faiz. Afghanistan Rising: Islamic Law and Statecraft Between the Ottoman and British Empires (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2017).

Barfield, Thomas. Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010). 389 pages.

Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Press, 2004). 697 pages.

Dupree, Louis. Afghanistan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973). 760 pages.

Edwards, David B. Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad (Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 2002). 354 pages.

Gregorian, Vartan. The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880-1946 (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1969). 586 pages.

Rashid, Ahmed. Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (New York: Viking, 2012). 234 pages.

A rich, interactive website about the history and culture of Afghanistan.
A research project of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University that quantifies the costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.
Declassified U.S. and Soviet documents on the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.
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