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Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. Helmand province, Afghanistan was the scene this past weekend of the hanging of an 8-year-old boy whose father refused to supply militants with a police vehicle, according to a CNN report.
Don Belt traveled thousands of miles across Pakistan 60 years after its founding to report in Struggle for the Soul of Pakistan (Sept. National Geographic VoicesResearchers, conservationists, and others around the world share stories and commentary on the National Geographic Society's conversation platform Voices. Society Field Inspection 2016: Gulf of CaliforniaDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. Support National GeographicWe've supported more than 11,000 grants to scientists and others in the field.Learn more about our work. Two years after being discovered deep in a South African cave, the 1,500 fossils excavated during the Rising Star Expedition have been identified as belonging to a previously unknown early human relative that National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger and team have named Homo naledi. With at least 15 individuals of all ages and both sexes represented, the find adds an unprecedented amount of information to our understanding of early human evolution in Africa. In addition, the absence of any other animal remains or large debris in the fossil chamber strongly suggests that these non-human beings intentionally deposited their dead within this cave. In this guest article, my former student from the University of Vermont, Ian Lynch, narrates his perspectives on Afghanistan’s future based on the past months he has spent in Kabul as a teacher for the School of Leadership (SOLA). The media portrayal of Afghanistan hardly comes close to imparting a sense of what this country is like. In Kabul, there are people going about their everyday lives with hardly a thought of the Taliban or what the government is up to.
These are not the actions of a liberating army poised to drive out the great and terrible foreign invaders. The next President is likely to retain control in the fortress of Kabul despite the growing audacity of the Taliban. The primary concern in Afghanistan today is its progressively more conservative government that has been influenced by some aspects of Taliban ideology as well as widespread corruption among the secular elite. The most recent attack on human rights from within Parliament is its alteration of Article 26 of the criminal procedure code in early February that institutes a carte blanche ban on not only the testimony of relatives at criminal proceedings, but even the questioning of them! It hardly matters how strong EVAW is if relatives cannot even be questioned by the Afghan police, the Afghan army or the attorney general’s office. What is particularly troubling about this law change is that it passed through the Parliament so easily, without an outcry from even the ranks of the women in Parliament. It would have been a damaging setback if President Karzai chose to sign the legislation or let it creep into law without his oversight. The UNAMA report on the EVAW Law published in December 2013 notes that reporting of such events increased 28%, but indictments due to EVAW increased only 2%.
Afghanistan is massively rich in natural resources including rare earth metals, industrial minerals, precious gems, oil and gas.
In 2008, Afghanistan awarded its first major mining contract to the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (CMGC) to operate the Mes Aynak copper mines. The connection between Afghanistan’s political elite and illicit activities extends far beyond the extractive industry.
Just like with the case of illegal chromite extraction in Kunar, the foreign aid community must take part of the blame for this situation.
It is even harder to understand how development operations in Afghanistan can associate with these strongmen when you consider their shaky connection to security. All of these serious concerns; women’s rights, mining contracts, capture of the economy by the political elite and others make the upcoming elections all the more important. The educated Afghans who make up organizations like Human Rights Watch, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, the National Democratic Institute, Democracy International and others have options.
I am also lucky to teach in a school everyday, so I get to watch the development of the next generation of Afghan leaders. Lessons in Afghanistan are defined by rote learning, with absolutely no room for questions to be asked.

Beyond the horrendous pedagogy employed by many Afghan teachers there are other major structural problems with Afghanistan’s education system.
An excellent, thoroughly perceptive, reflective evaluation and perspective on the current state of Afghanistan. Thank you for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and honest article that reflects the Afghanistan that I have experienced during my 11 years working there. I concur with you that the hope for the future of the country is the generation in high schools and universities. Bring some of National Geographic's most iconic images and classic topographic maps into your home with National Geographic posters. Many Afghans live in the fertile valleys between the mountains and grow their crops and tend to their animals. Summers are hot and dry but the winters are very cold, especially north of the Hindu Kush, which is located in the eastern part of the country near Pakistan and Tajikistan. Many other groups live in the country as wella€”Pashtuns are related to the Persian people of Iran, the Tajiks are also Persian, but speak another language called Dari, and the Uzbeks speak a language similar to Turkish. The Hazaras live in the mountains of central Afghanistan and are believed to be descendents of the Mongols because their Dari language contains many Mongol words.
Due to many years of war, the countryside is littered with unexploded mines and children who herd animals are often killed by stepping on mines. Over the centuries, travelers have braved the dangerous high mountain passes to find shelter in the valleys and plains of Afghanistan. Tea is the favorite Afghan drink and a popular meal is palau, made from rice, sheep and goat meats, and fruit.
Decades of war, hunting, and years of drought have reduced the wildlife population in Afghanistan.
Endangered snow leopards live in the cold Hindu Kush, but rely on their thick fur to stay warm. The country is rich in the vibrant blue stone, lapis lazuli, which was used to decorate the tomb of the Egyptian king Tutankhamun. The government still faces problems with the Taliban, internal security, and public services. The British and Afghans fought in three wars in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the Afghans finally defeated the British in 1919 and formed an independent monarchy in 1921. It comes from Begram, the Kabul-area summer capital of the Kushan kings, and dates back to the second or third century. Posters and commenters are required to observe National Geographic's community rules and other terms of service. To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016. Ian exemplifies the best of American youth who are trying to genuinely help rebuild Afghanistan despite many challenges and risks. In a week in January, a restaurant full of both expats and Afghans was brutally assaulted, a police transport was blown to pieces, and a bus full of Afghans on their way to a wedding party were also bombed. Your excellent, comprehensive article fills in many gaps in my understanding of Afghanistan.
Ian’s students are lucky to be taught critical thinking skills and guided by his persistent, humanitarian heart and intelligence. Our high-quality, large-format print posters are reproductions of your favorite National Geographic images. The country was a busy section of the Silk Road, a route that merchants have traveled over land between China, India, and Europe for over 2,000 years. About 15 million people, nearly half of Afghanistan's population are Pashtuns and live in the south around Kandahar. Many schools have been destroyed, but children, including girls, go to school in ruins or wherever possible.

Today nomads called Kuchi lead their herds of animals across the country and into the mountain pastures for grazing. They even have kite fights and use wire or glass in their kites to cut the kite strings of rival kite flyers. Under the new constitution, the president and two vice presidents are elected every five years. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 and the Afghan fighters called Mujahedin were aided by the United States, Pakistan, China, and Iran.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States began searching for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and invaded Afghanistan, along with an international coalition to remove the Taliban.
Belt describes the original vision of its founders, the complex events resulting in the rising influence of the Taliban, and why the world pays close attention to the clash between the moderates and extremists. They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society. With mineral wealth coming in the potential for such corruption being exacerbated remains high.
These strongmen hold positions of significant power in the central government or have close connections with those in power.
Yet, the next generation of Afghans will have to go beyond criticizing history and will have to both reach out and reach in to ensure that their future remains secure from internal and external threats.
As the host to Sabira, a young SOLA woman about to enter Trinity College in Hartford, CT this fall, I will refer to your article often as I converse with her about her country and her own goals to return and be a leader.
Our travel posters and prints include the breathtaking color nature prints of Peter Essick from remote corners of Alaska, Finland, Australia, and Chile. Snow melt and rain that flow out of the Hindu Kush pool into a low area and never reach the ocean. The rhesus macaque and the red flying squirrel are found in the warmer southern areas of the country. The International Security Force Assistance helps the government maintain peace and rebuild the country. A Loya Jirga wrote a new constitution in 2004 and the people elected their first president, Hamid Karzai. Meet Umme Ayman, a 22-year old religious student fully prepared to die in protest over a mosque being torn down, and Edhi, a Muslim man who collects dead bodies from the streets and shelters abandoned infants without regard for who might be an infidel. Such diluting revisions will make it easy for foreign companies to essentially rob Afghanistan of its valuable natural resources. Display detailed topographic maps, which highlight the rich landscape of some of our most cherished National Parks with map posters from Glacier, Yosemite, and Isle Royale National Parks in your home or office. And remember that your purchases at the National Geographic Store help support our mission of research, education, conservation and exploration. Nevertheless there is a broader concern that their ideology has stealthily crept into the fabric of Afghan society in pernicious ways. Our products reflect that missiona€”from travel posters, National Park maps, atlases, National Geographic Channel DVDs, and learning materials for kids, to cameras, travel accessories, GPS software, and gadgets that will get you out exploring. In 1747, Pashtun elders held a council meeting called a Loya Jirga and created the kingdom of the Afghans.
Yet as with all cases of development, quality must keep pace with quantity in order to have maximum impact.

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