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A Barbarous Attack on Afghan Students

  • A young woman wounded last week in the attack on the American University of Afghanistan.
  • A version of this editorial appears in print on August 30, 2016, on page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: A Barbarous Attack on Afghan Students.
  • But the resolve of students and faculty members, who vowed to carry on with their mission and education, offered hope.
  • It has always required a leap of faith to believe that the American University of Afghanistan, which opened its doors in 2006, would endure in the face of endless war and violence.
  • Of the billions of dollars the United States and other donors have invested in Afghanistan in recent years, the money spent on education has arguably been the most transformative.

Students deserve support as they prepare to return to class after an attack on the American University of Afghanistan.

@AmbassadorJawad: Of the billions US have invested in Afghanistan, the money spent on education has been the most transformative. AUAF

It has always required a leap of faith to believe that the American University of Afghanistan, which opened its doors in 2006, would endure in the face of endless war and violence. The attack on the campus by militants last week, which killed at least 13 people, including seven students, three police officers and three security guards, demonstrates how perilous the conditions remain. But the resolve of students and faculty members, who vowed to carry on with their mission and education, offered hope.

The university, which is heavily subsidized by the United States, was intended as an elite institution to educate Afghanistan’s future leaders. It has done a commendable job in the face of extraordinary challenges. The school has struggled to attract and retain high-caliber international faculty members as security in the country has worsened. This month, two professors, an American and an Australian, were kidnapped in Kabul. There has been no news of their fate.

The university will most likely remain dependent on American government funding for the foreseeable future, which has raised questions about its long-term viability.

Of the billions of dollars the United States and other donors have invested in Afghanistan in recent years, the money spent on education has arguably been the most transformative. In 2002, fewer than one million Afghan boys were enrolled in schools, while girls and women were barred from getting a formal education.

Over the past decade, American officials have spent hundreds of millions of dollars building up Afghanistan’s education system. But the results — as with much of what the United States set out to accomplish in the country — have sometimes been dispiriting. Much of the educational infrastructure proved unsustainable as soon as American troops pulled out of rural areas, and many of the schools that remain open are barely functional.

Yet, Afghans now have far more educational opportunities and resources than they had a decade ago. According to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education, more than nine million children attend school; girls now make up roughly 40 percent of the student body.

If Afghanistan has any chance of breaking the cycles of poverty and violence that have dogged it for generations, its hopes must lie in the students who aspire to build a better country and refuse to be cowed by violence. They deserve the world’s unwavering support.

A Barbarous Attack on Afghan Students