Selected excerpts from Afghanistan- Hearts & Minds
Contractors: By U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Flickr: USACE Representatives speak with contractors in Afghanistan) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (] -

Aid workers: By ICRC [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

People: Lokal_Profil [CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Afghan kids playing soccer
American soldiers
Aid workers
People of Afghanistan
As of 2016, the population of Afghanistan is around 33 million, which includes those living across the borders in Pakistan and Iran. A multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society (over 40 languages spoken), the most prominent ethnic groups are Pashtuns (42%), Tajiks (27%), Hazaras (9%), and Uzbeks (8%).
Map of ethnic groups
Afghanistan- Hearts & Minds, page 8
Suddenly, I stopped swinging. It just occurred to me that all the information I was getting about Afghanistan was from foreigners working there. Whether soldiers fighting, contractors rebuilding, journalists reporting, or aid workers aiding, everybody was there on a mission— but was anybody simply curious about Afghan people and their country? Did anyone visit their museums? Shop for souvenirs? Did anybody want to just hang out with them? Be friends?

If Step One in Dina’s ‘How to Make Friends’ Handbook required “meeting the people,” then maybe I needed to stop getting all my information from the TV and discover Afghanistan for myself.

Unfortunately, going to Afghanistan as a tourist was absurd. Dangerous. Outlandish! By the time I had polished off the last of the chips I had convinced myself the idea was virtually impossible.

Then I flipped out of the hammock and went inside to call my travel agent.
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