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06KABUL442 2006-02-01 10:47:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kabul
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1. (SBU) Summary: Four schools (two of which were USAID
projects) were attacked and burned January 28 in Helmand and
Kandahar provinces. The perpetrators are believed to be
Taleban sympathizers or other anti-government groups. In the
month of January alone, there were 11 attacks on schools in
southern Afghanistan; 50 schools were targeted in all of

2005. In addition to destroying school buildings, tactics
have included killing of educators and intimidation of
pupils. Some schools have closed in areas where threats were
made. This increase in attacks on "soft" targets could be a
sign of evolving Taleban tactics, as well as the success of
U.S. and other international donors' efforts in the education
field. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Total attacks on schools in southern Afghanistan
numbered 11 in January 2006, according to military sources.
The most recent incidents confirmed by military, USAID and
MOI sources, were three (two USAID funded) school burnings in
the Nawa district, and a fourth in the Gereshk district of
Helmand province. Other recent attacks took place in Kandahar
and Farah provinces. The MOI and U.S. military attribute
these attacks to the Taleban or other anti-government groups,
some operating from Pakistan. In addition to the attacks on
the school buildings, a teacher was beheaded January 3 in
Zabol province. In December 2005 a teacher was shot in front
of his students.

3. (SBU) The Taleban and other armed groups carrying out
these attacks periodically send warning letters or hang
posters in provincial towns and villages warning against the
teaching of girls, threatening teachers or notifying
communities that attacks on schools will take place. Taleban
insurgents in the south have regularly targeted schools or
attacked teachers, but there appears to be a marked increase
in the past month. Although the Taleban often rants against
female education, boys' schools have been destroyed as well,
demonstrating that the insurgents are targeting the education
system in general. This intimidation campaign caused three
schools to close in Kandahar in November 2005, when three
warning letters were issued, though only one was ultimately

4. (SBU) As USAID funding continues to support education, and
school construction moves to more isolated villages where the
need for literacy and education is greatest, the security
risk increases. USAID funding has brought schooling to over
3,600 communities, and schools in remote villages lie outside
of police and military security networks which tend to be
based in urban centers. Education is very popular according
to several surveys taken in Afghanistan. The number of
children in schools has risen from 900,000 to 5 million since
2001, with 280,000 in U.S.-run schools. The Afghan
Independent Human Rights Commission as well as newspaper
editorials have condemned the targeting of schools and

5. (SBU) Comment. The January increase in attacks on schools
in southern Afghanistan indicate that the Taleban and other
armed groups are continuing their campaign against education
as an insurgency tactic. The Taleban has historically
opposed the teaching of girls, but recent attacks have
targeted boys' schools as well, which matches the trend
towards attacking soft targets, outside the U.S. military
security umbrella. Many education professionals in
Afghanistan believe that literacy and female education pose a
specific threat to the Taleban and the most radical
anti-modern elements. The international community's
successes in the education field also make schools an obvious
target. Efforts by militants to undermine the educational
system directly counteract US efforts in southern
Afghanistan, where the need is greatest, as many of the
schools in these provinces were built by USAID and continue
to receive funding. Education is one of the key elements of
U.S. development efforts and by closing schools, terrorists
are striking against one of the most visible and worthwhile
symbols of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. There are
indications as well that the tactic of hitting soft targets
is resulting in a public backlash against the perpetrators.