(Khost): By TUBS [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

(Terror Groups): By ResoluteSupportMedia (Flickr: Insurgents Lay Down Weapons) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)] - https://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/4638637540

(Poverty): By DVIDSHUB [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Vision Activity
Kids on globe
GSD team in Afghanistan
GSD team members Dina and Andy
Map of Khost, Afghanistan
Khost is a region in eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border that has been a hotbed for insurgent activity. It could be considered one of the most dangerous places on earth. The Khost JRC is a government-run juvenile detention/rehabilitation facility for minors who have committed crimes.
Since the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the concept of suicide bombing has sharply risen as an insurgency tactic against the government, foreign and domestic militaries, religious groups, and even civilians. Bombers often wear vests that hold the explosives and can be strapped to the body under clothing. Often times, children and teens are manipulated into carrying out suicide bombings.
Members of the Taliban
The Taliban has been terrorizing the new Afghan government and domestic and foreign militaries in hopes of regaining control. Also operating in Eastern Afghanistan is a group called the Haqqani Network, which is based across the Pakistani border.

And like that wasn't enough already, ISIS has also began recruiting fighters in Afghanistan.
A madrassa is an Islamic religious school, and is not considered dangerous. However, during the rise of the Taliban, many Saudi-financed madrassas were opened in Pakistan specifically to teach extremist ideology.
In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The U.S. government hired fighters (mujahidden) from Afghanistan and other nearby countries, gave them lots of money and weapons, and had them fight the Soviets off on their behalf. During this time, between 600,000 and two million Afghans— mostly civilians caught in the crossfire— were killed, and about 6 million Afghan refugees fled the country.

Ten years later in 1989, the Soviets gave up and withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving the country broken broken down after a decade of fighting. Many schools had been destroyed, and the Afghan government was very weak. With no strong leadership in place, and no outside support, some of the Mujahidden (from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran) began to fight each other for control of the country. This was known as Afghanistan’s Civil War, and it lasted for six years.

In 1996, the Taliban (an extremist government group from Pakistan) took control of Kabul, chased the Mujahideen off to the mountains, and ended the Civil War. The Taliban was very strict, ruled by terror, and imposed harsh punishments— including public executions— on those who didn’t do exactly as they said. Many things once enjoyed by Afghans became forbidden, including music, singing, dancing, kite-flying, television, and photographs. Women were no longer allowed to work, they weren’t allowed out of the house without wearing a burqa and having a male escort, and girls were no longer allowed to attend school.

The Taliban also welcomed al Qaeda (ahl-KY-duh) to operate inside Afghanistan as their guests. Al Qaeda was a military-style religious group created in the late 1980s by Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden was from Saudi Arabia but was hired as a Mujahideen fighter to go to Afghanistan and fight the Soviets.

The U.S. government knew that the Taliban was letting al Qaeda work inside Afghanistan, so after the 9/11 attacks they told the Taliban that if they didn’t hand over Bin Laden, they would go to Afghanistan to get him, and take the Taliban out of power as well. The Taliban refused, so along with several other countries, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, chased the Taliban from power and installed the new government that still runs Afghanistan today.

Since 2001, the Taliban has been regrouping in other parts of Afghanistan and are determined to return to power, so the U.S., NATO, and other countries have been working to strengthen the Afghan army and help prevent this from happening. The U.S. government says its goal is to make the Afghan government and army stronger so they can fully support themselves and U.S. soldiers will be able to leave. In the meantime, the Taliban still terrorizes the population through roadside bombings, kidnappings, and killings, making Afghanistan one of the most dangerous places on earth.
Afghan child in refugee camp
Because Afghans have lived in a nonstop state of war for nearly 40 years, more than 80% of the people live in poverty. After Bangladesh, Afghanistan is the second poorest country in Asia.
Afghan girls in school
Due to nearly 40 years of nonstop war, education has been so disrupted that only one in 30 girls is in school, and nearly 70% of the population is illiterate.

Part 3: real visions creating 
change in our world

To some, the idea of crafting a vision seems too “inactive” to actually accomplish much— especially a vision created by teenagers. But the truth is, visions (especially those of teens) have the power to defy logic, reason, and all odds! To prove it, GSD has done this exact same vision activity with (arguably) the most vulnerable kids on the planet— who went on to receive a Nobel Peace Prize nomination!

It started in 2013 when the Afghan government invited the GSD team to the khost Juvenile Rehabilitation Center (JRC) to implement our leadership program with 17 teenage boys. Serving time for crimes including attempted suicide bombing, planting roadside bombs (IEDs), consorting with terror groups, undergoing extremist training in madrassas, stealing, and other serious crimes, these guys were a hard core bunch.

Due to nearly 40 years of nonstop war, poverty, lack of education and connection to the outside world, frustration from violence, and too much idle time on their hands, Afghan youth have been ideal prey for insurgent groups willing to fund illegal activities and recruit them to their ranks. Many teens are currently living in JRCs across the country, and in urgent need of a rehabilitation program able to redirect their views toward a better future.

No pressure.
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