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Ball State Panel On Afghanistan: We Built Institutions, But Did Not Win Over Hearts And Minds

By Emily Guffey, IPR News | Published on in Ball State, Community, Education, Politics
Gov. Eric Holcomb visits Afghan refugees staying at Camp Atterbury. (Photo: Provided by the Governor's Office)

With 5,000 Afghan refugees coming to Camp Atterbury in Indiana, could some have a future home locally?  As the US reflects on the end of a nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan, a panel at Ball State University on Thursday night attempted to give context to conflict.  IPR’s Emily Guffey reports.

Ken Holland has worked at Ball State University and once led the American University of Afghanistan.  He believes that the United States has had difficulty reaching out to Afghani citizens in its nearly 20 years of military action in the country.

“We built institutions and we educated a whole new generation of people with a modern outlook. We succeeded in that. The failure was in winning over the hearts and minds of the people.”

Bibi Bahrami is an Afghan woman who is now a Muncie resident.  She started the charity organization Afghan Women’s & Kids’ Education & Necessities or AWAKEN.  And she says not all action in the country has led to progress.

“We were doing fine before the Soviets invaded. We were getting modernized, and we were learning. We got behind probably 100 years more by people trying to help us.”

Bahrami hopes to work with Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour to take in some of the 5,000 refugees temporarily staying at Indiana’s Camp Atterbury.  Ridenour was a panelist at Thursday’s event, but admitted that he had not come to speak about his own experiences, rather to learn more about the struggles of the Afghani people.

“I know that Muncie is a welcoming, giving, caring community. And as I continue to gather information, we will see what can be done.”

AWAKEN Inc. is an IPR underwriter.