Children competing for empty cement bags. Used as fuel for cooking, they release toxic fumes.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Class at University of Denver University College, Osher Lifetime Learning Institute

This Spring, starting March 27, I will teach a new class on Afghanistan and Pakistan for 8 weeks at the University of Denver, University College, Osher Lifetime Learning Institute (OLLI). It is a non- credit class, open to the public through membership in "OLLI". I believe there are currently 29 registrants, and that the maximum seating is for 40. For more information about this, and other classes at OLLI, and membership information, please go to:

The previous two classes have had a significant emphasis on Afghanistan. This class will be more evenly structured to include more Pakistan material and discussion. Here is the syllabus, for your interest:

Geopolitics in the Center of Asia
9:30- 11:30, Wednesdays, March 27- May 15, 2013
Facilitator: Jim Frasché

There is no required text for the class. HOWEVER, anyone who reads the following two books will be best prepared to take maximum advantage of the presentations and class discussions:

Ziring, Lawrence, “Pakistan At The Crosscurrent of History”, Oxford. One World, 2003. ISBN 1-85168-327-5

AND either:

Crile, George. “Charlie Wilson’s War”, New York. Grove Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8021-4124-2 


Kaplan, Robert D. “Soldiers of God. With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, New York, Vintage Books.2001. ISBN 1-4000-3025-0

Recommended readings are generally available on the internet at no cost through the captioned links under each class session in the syllabus, below. They are highly recommended and readers will be best prepared for the class sessions.

Much is written and reported about Afghanistan and Pakistan politics and security, but very little is generally understood about the underlying historical, sociological, geopolitical, economic, and even geographic dimensions to the region. The suggested readings address these areas of interest.

Presentations and discussions will address:

Class 1.
For millennia, and up to modern times, empires seeking wealth  and power invaded or at least crossed Afghanistan. What is the  significance of this location and history? What are their implications today?

Suggested reading:

-         “The Geopolitics of US Interests in South Asia”, A.Z.Hilali, University of
                Peshawar, Ashgate, 2005 (handout to be sent to class Members by
     -        Silk Road Map and narrative:  

Class 2.
Geography, geology, and natural resources: Why are Afghanistan's neighbors (and others, including Pakistan) so concerned about who controls Afghanistan?
Suggested reading:
-         “The Geopolitics of Oil Pipelines in Central Asia”, SRAS, 2007:

Class 3.
Nationalism and Identity in Afghanistan: What are the opportunities and 
challenges in moving beyond being a country of tribes to becoming a Nation?
            Suggested Reading:
            “The Importance of Tribal Structures and Pakhtunwali In Afghanistan”,
             Shahmahmood  Miakhel, undated. To be sent by email to class Members.
-         “Crime and Insurgency In the Tribal Areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan”,
 Gretchen Peters, US Military Academy 2010:

Class 4.
Pakistan's identity crisis: borne of violence and betrayal, surrounded by  hostile neighbors, its identity defined by territorial loss and "Islam in  Danger"
             Suggested Reading:
           “Afghanistan- Pakistan Relations: History and Geopolitics in a Regional
            and International Context”, Shibil Siddiqi, Walter and Duncan Gordon

Class 5.
 Shared Populations: Iranian, Pakistani, Arab, Uzbek, and Turkish issues  with Hazara, Pashtun, Baluchi, Arab, Uzbek, and Turkoman minorities.
            Suggested Reading:
          -  “Afghan Insurgents Show Foreign Influence”, Sean Naylor, “Marine Corps
            Times”, June, 2009:   

Class 6.
Big Power Politics: US, Russian, Chinese, and Indian interests. 
Suggested Reading:
-“India In Afghanistan And Beyond: Opportunities and Constraints”,  C. Christine Fair, The Century Foundation, 2010:
-“The Emerging China- Afghanistan Relationship”, CACI, 2008:
“Saudi Arabia And The Future of Afghanistan”, Council on Foreign Relations, 2010:

Class 7. 
Who are the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami, The Haqqani Network, and the PRMI? Can/should they be negotiated with, and what is an appropriate role for them in future Afghan and Pakistani regimes?
-       “Afghanistan’s Islamist Groups”, Haqqani, Hudson Institute:
-       Jundallah Profile, Radio Free Europe 2010:

Class 8.
Islam in local power structures: Going beyond the Afghan and Pakistani constitutions to the village level in defining human rights, "progress", and political control.
-       “Afghanistan’s Islamist Groups”, Haqqani, Hudson Institute:
-       “Analysis: Wahhabism”, PBS Frontline, Interview with Ali al Ahmed, undated:

Please be sure to notify the Facilitator if you decide to drop the class. This will enable another person to join from the wait list. Thank you!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Afghanistan At The Crossroads of History

I will teach a course titled "Afghanistan: At The Crossroads of History" this Spring at the OSHER adult learning program at the University of Denver. Here is the syllabus, for your interest. There are a lot of links to good reading material, so be sure to click on "Read More", below. Anyone in the Denver area interested in attending the class can register at

University College, University of Denver
Osher Lifetime Learning Institute
COURSE TITLE: AFGHANISTAN: At The Crossroads of History
Spring, 2011
Thursday, 1:00 to 3:00
Course description:
From the time of the “Silk Road”, Afghanistan has been at the crossroads of commerce and power between Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and India. In the late 19th century the geopolitics of the British and Russian Empires crossed paths in Afghanistan. During the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, Afghanistan once again was at the crossroads. And now at the beginning of the 21st Century Afghanistan is again in the cross hairs of geopolitics, further demonstrating the importance of the “prime real estate” it occupies.
Course Objective:
To learn about Afghanistan’s history and its importance in today’s world of geopolitics and ideology.
Guest presenters:
I have invited guest experts to participate in some of the sessions. They include Afghan and American experts on political geography; religion and culture; drugs, international criminal gangs and security; and international economic aid and development.
Suggested Class Reading Materials:
Everyone will get the most from each class if they stay abreast of current events in Afghanistan:
Afghanistan News
Prof. Barnet Rubin’s blog and news services at New York University
Session 1: Thursday, March 31, 2011: Basic “Situation Analysis” of Afghanistan: Political, Social, Security, and Economic. Overview presentation about contemporary Afghanistan and discussion about Afghanistan’s struggle to emerge from 30 years of conflict as a responsible member of the world community of nations.
Session 1 Suggested Class Reading Material:
- “Pashtunwali, Islam, and Democracy in Afghanistan: What’s Our Commitment?”, James Frasche’, 2009:
- “Afghanistan in 2010: A Survey of The Afghan People”, Asia Foundation, 2010:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do The right Thing In Afghanistan

Do The Right Thing In Afghanistan

The adage “War is hell” is generally attributed to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman during his retributive destruction of Atlanta and much of the “Old South” during our own Civil War.

It is a particularly apt phrase when considering the 30+ year conflict in Afghanistan. This war is repulsive -- crushing to the human spirit, and exhausting first to the Afghan nation, and now to our own.

The Afghan conflict exhibits all the horror of the usual violence of war and its impact on the innocent bystander, the “collateral damage,” a desensitizing euphemism for women, children, and the elderly.

The Afghan conflict has been a vehicle for the as yet un-reconciled perversity of massive crimes against humanity (because simply killing people is not enough), ethnic cleansing, and regional opportunism fueled by money from regional manipulators, weapons dealers and drug gangs. That is the way it has been there for a long time.

It is particularly horrific to me because it is so transparently fueled by petty politics and greed.

What is it about this apparently remote, destitute corner in the middle of nowhere that makes Afghanistan so compelling, attractive, and necessary to first draw us in, and then become the “graveyard of empires”? Why do we continue to beat our heads against the wall, and for what advantage or gain?