Battleland

If the U.S. Is Leaving Afghanistan…

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JOHANNES EISELE / AFP / Getty Images

Afghan troops like these soon will be learning English.

…why is the U.S. Army planning to teach thousands of Afghan security-force members to speak and understand English?

Classes are going to be held across the country, and the job details fill 198 pages. Students will include Afghan soldiers, air force personnel, policemen and jailers, members of the Interior Ministry, Afghans at the military and police academies – even the Presidential Guards. Some will get “intensive” training; others merely “semi-intensive.”

“The ELT [English Language Training] program is designed to support English-based higher level military education and training, enable key ANSF [Afghan National Security Force] personnel to communicate more effectively with coalition forces and perform their job-related duties in which the use of English is required,” the solicitation says. It estimates it will pay up to $3 million for 18 months of English-language training by 83 English teachers. “The contractor,” it adds, “will provide weekly reports of student performance and progress to include all tests, homework, class work, and attendance.”

Of course, teaching anything in a war zone brings its own set of challenges. “Contractor personnel must be willing and able to travel outside of protected areas,” the solicitation notes. However, “the U.S. Government and the Afghan Government will not be responsible for accidents or insurgency activities aimed at disrupting ANSF operations.”

But not to worry:

Initial emergency treatment:  The U.S. Government shall provide initial medical treatment for life threatening emergencies when contract personnel are on U.S. Government facilities and such treatment is available. It shall be the responsibility of the contractor or the employee to seek continued medical treatment if needed.

Perusing the document raises a couple of questions.

First, isn’t Britain part of the coalition waging war in Afghanistan? Isn’t English their language? Aren’t we only, like, borrowing it? Why isn’t the UK stepping up to the plate here to spread the Queen Mother’s Tongue?

Secondly, have you ever wondered if things might be going a little more smoothly in Afghanistan if Americans put the same effort into learning Dari and Pashto as they do trying to teach Afghans to speak English?

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