March 15, 2002 - When should the Peace Corps return to Afghanistan?

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Feature Story Discussion Pages: March 15, 2002 - When should the Peace Corps return to Afghanistan?
Send in the Peace Corps?

Send in the Peace Corps to Iraq and Afghanistan? 23 July 2003

When should Peace Corps return to Afghanistan?

Washington Post: The Peace Corps will need some backup in Afghanistan 27 April 2002

Sending PCVs is premature and must be carefully reassessed 13 March 2002

PCVs should head first to Afghanistan 3 February 2002

RPCV starts aid organization in Afghanistan

Morroco RPCV Sarah Chayes starts aid organization in Afghanistan 7 October 2002

Background and Reference

President Bush directs Vasquez to bring volunteers back into Afghanistan 16 February 2002

PC Director travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan to assess Peace Corps' return 5 March 2002

NPCA says special care needs to be exercised in Middle East 1 March 2002

By Holly Hirchert on Friday, March 15, 2002 - 9:15 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps volunteers who have just completed stateside training have the odds stacked against them even in peaceful countries. I would not even advocate sending construction volunteers into Afghanistan, until a more solid government has been established and US troops are no longer involved in combat. New volunteers are not supposed to be crisis/disaster workers especially in a war torn country like Afghanistan and for a two-year commitment.

By smled on Friday, March 15, 2002 - 7:59 pm: Edit Post

I agree. New volunteers are very naive coming in country. They should not have to constantly fear for their lives while trying to learn a people, a country and a job. It needs to be stabilized before PC goes in.

By Colin Gallagher on Saturday, March 16, 2002 - 4:22 am: Edit Post

Butterfly mines and crossfire death from inter- and intra-group combat, lawlessness and sharia law, Taliban in the hills and U.S. military in the valleys, a winter on unleavened bread and USAID... These are not a few of our favorite things. Peace Corps should wait a few years, assuming the war in Afghanistan ever ends.

By Karen Speicher on Saturday, March 16, 2002 - 10:50 am: Edit Post

March 16, 2002

Just this morning I read an article in THE WASHINGTON POST which discussed the vast extent of land mines and other explosives which litter the landscape of Afghanistan. I would not set foot in the country until professionals have gone in to clear away this lethal debris, a process which will take years and cost millions! Do not send Peace Corps volunteers there at this time.


By Ken Hill on Sunday, March 17, 2002 - 11:40 am: Edit Post

It is well that Peace Corps begin planning for it's re-entry to Afghanistan but haste is not warranted. Prematurely placing Peace Corps Volunteers in any situation before (a) adequate security can be assured and (b) PCV's can enjoy an environment where they can be productive is clearly unwarranted. I'm confident that Peace Corps would not do so. Meanwhile, giving a program in Afghanistan ample time to be developed is wise. I have heard very recently from RPCV's working in Afghanistan that Peace Corps has been asked to delay it's entry until the situation is more stable and secure. This is encouraging. Ken Hill.

By mike osborn (majoroz) on Monday, March 18, 2002 - 4:57 pm: Edit Post

I am in general agreement with the above comments. It is too soon to send in any PCV's. There is still inter-tribal warfare and will be even after all the coalition troops leave.
If PC must send anyone in, they should try to glean applicants to send in older, experienced international travelers, perhaps military veterans who have applied to PC.

By Peter Nash on Thursday, March 21, 2002 - 11:18 pm: Edit Post

Although I fully support the military efforts of the US and our allies to crush terrorist bases in Afganistan and begin to recover the country, I fully oppose sending US Peace Corps Volunteers there at this time. The hostility against the United States is still a threat to American citizens. There are rampant battles ongoing between ethnic groups and clans to carve out power bases and control. Kidnapping of foreigners has been practiced to gain leverage or money and political gain in these circumstances. Furthermore, Peace Corp volunteers especially would be viewed by those unfriendly to the US in the same light as our military presence and, again, the possibility of killing or kidnapping is all too real. We've seen what has happened to some unfortunate 'noncombatent' journalists. Let us stay on the path of rebuilding Afganistan with well defined projects backed with money and profound support and tight control of security. Under the types of programs Peace Corps volunteers operate, very little benefit would accrue to Afganistan in the near future, while a great risk of life and limb to the volunteers is all too possible. Let the military and world support make a firm and lasting "Peace" before we send the "Peace" Corps there. Thank you. Peter L. Nash RPCV Samoa IV

By suzywinz on Monday, March 25, 2002 - 2:02 am: Edit Post

Thanks for this discussion. I agree that it is too early yet for the Peace Corps as we know it, to enter and set up business in Afghanistan. But the news trumpets the opening of schools for girls, and yet no teachers or supplies. The country is in such need...
As a former PCV who has worked in war zones, for refugee relief NGO's, and who found that neither nursing school, MPH school, or PCV training prepared me to deal with angry young men with guns, I still think we have some moral obligations to the innocent ones in this war. Children are still born, mothers still face maternal death, communicable diseases are rampant and killers. Is there some other group who should go and help until it is "safe enough"??
Maybe we need a branch of Peace Corps like the US Marines, or Medicins Sans Frontiers, that go in early, where others are afraid, and start the ball rolling...
Suzanne (Via) Banda, former PCV Afghanistan (72-73)

By richard bodman on Tuesday, April 02, 2002 - 1:26 pm: Edit Post

As an RPCV from Afghanistan [1969-71], I remember
the Afghanistan of thirty years ago with great
fondness -- a country of great courtesy to
foreign visitors. I realize the situation is not
particularly safe just yet, especially in the countryside, but I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to commence a small program using persons with language training & previous experience in Afghanistan at Kabul University and the Nangahar Medical College in Jalalabad; and at high schools and hospitals in Kabul. As security improved, the program could expand. Now is the time to do a
feasability study and a "needs assessment" at the
very least.

By Ann Thompson Hannibal on Tuesday, April 02, 2002 - 3:01 pm: Edit Post

We need to not be cursory when considering sending PCV to Afghanistan, it is too soon and the country is far from stable yet. Read the news. Please be wary of this idea! Safety needs to, first, be considered for these devoted young men and women.

By Khasta Na-Bashied on Friday, April 05, 2002 - 12:32 am: Edit Post

My heart yearns to go and help heal the suffering of those torn by decades of war. But my head reminds me that the bombs are still dropping, the bullets still flying, and the land littered with land-mines.

Afraid of danger, no; - afraid of the utter stupidity of mankind, use your head. We can invent a mythological caring fantasy-land, sitting here in the warmth and security of Beltway Teevey-land. But it is an ugly, cold, cruel, world out there. The need is so so real, but ugly evil still runs rampant.

To those who can deal with it, Go. Go on your own. But do not even suggest that naive unpaid volunteers be sacrificed to bail out the profiteering power-hungry international war-mongers.

By jerr on Friday, April 05, 2002 - 8:59 am: Edit Post


By Brian Estee on Friday, April 05, 2002 - 10:54 am: Edit Post

Whatever happened to responding to the requests and needs of the host country? Has the GOA asked for volunteer intervention or is this a Washington initiative? If the former, it appears most people agree that it is too early. If the latter, send the Bush girls with the first group of trainees.

By Jim Fox, RPCV on Sunday, April 07, 2002 - 12:53 am: Edit Post

Today's news reports a bounty offered for Westerners, $50,000 dead, $100,000 alive. That's more than a PCV could make in a "lifetime" of service.

By Kathy Long on Sunday, April 07, 2002 - 10:47 pm: Edit Post

I served in Afghanistan from 73-75 in Kabul. The time for PC to return is when the war has ended. The bounties being offered for Westerners would make young volunteers the prey of Taliban fanatics. Hopefully, in the next 18 months we can mobilize a national police force and army and continue the mine removal operations to make the country safer for Afghans and Peace Corps volunteers.

By Andrew Rebold on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 1:37 am: Edit Post

I served in Mali from 96-98 and have been to unstable countries both as a PCV and as a travel guidebook author for Lonely Planet. There are places I think are unsuitable for PCVs - like Cote d'Ivoire. But sending PCVs to Afghanistan at this point is ludicrous! (A) They haven't asked for PCVs (funny how the Bush Administration is changing the goals/protocol of such a long-standing great idea like the Peace Corps) and (B) we have our own troops there attacking and being attacked. If PCVs were in a country that had such fighting, they would be pulled out immediately. Why the kamikazee move? Is the Bush Administration trying to make martyrs out of noble young Americans?

By LENI STERN on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 12:28 pm: Edit Post

I'm not in the Peace Corps, but if I were, I'd want to go to Afghanistan to help the children in the schools; to teach them English and art, and to try and create a simple dialogue that would lead to a future enlightenment on both sides. This country of ours is indeed wonderful in many ways, and we ought to somehow be able to convey what we think is really great about it, so that all this insanity between leaders can be seen for what it is: plays for money and power. Please don't answer me back, just do some little something today that shows YES!

By Aviva Meyer on Friday, April 19, 2002 - 9:50 am: Edit Post

Bush's desire to put PCVs in Afghanistan as soon as possible is just another demonstration of how little he understands the role of the Peace Corps. Any Americans in the region at this time would be perceived as political and possibly spies. They would be unable to serve the real cultural exchange goals of the Peace Corps. Read the responses people wrote to Bush's Citizen Corps speach for more details.

By Jackie Pinson on Sunday, April 21, 2002 - 5:54 pm: Edit Post

I was an Afghanistan PC volunteer during the Republic period under President Daoud ('75-'77). At that time it was considered a "hardship" site (not many volunteers were staying for their two years of full duty). I had an excellent PC experience, with a Teacher Corps/Peace Corps program including a pre-year of training and culture before arriving in Kabul and being assigned in Kandahar. I think with the situation as it is right now, it is premature to plan to send volunteers. With a little more time perhaps, the Afghans and the volunteers will be ready for it.

By Ivan Lee Weir on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 9:08 am: Edit Post

Richard Bodman got it right; we should begin a Peace Corps presence in Afghanistan soon, but very carefully in educational locations such as Kabul University, primary and secondary schools, and with a high level of forethought and planning. The Peace Corps is the one American organization with untainted universal credibility that has and can be wisely applied throughout the world. However, the Peace Corps could consider newer models of intervention for Afghanistan involving targeted projects with up front planning for long term follow through in the interest of rebuilding social structure.

By Jamal on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 9:47 am: Edit Post

Hey listen, I was born there (and I was also a Peace Corps Volunteer myself recently.)

There are a lot of guns over there and easy attitudes about using them (on humans).

I don't think Afghanistan will be safe for Peace Corps any time soon. Not safe enough to meet the Peace Corps safety standards anyway. I don't think President Bush was very well advised on the safety standards of Peace Corps when he supposedly said Peace Corps should return there soon. Or, maybe he was saying that rhetorically or by "soon" he meant as soon as it is safe enough.

By John Gillies on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 6:20 pm: Edit Post

I was a PCV in Afghanistan from 73-77, and have just returned from Kabul, working on a multi-donor assessment of education. I have wanted to return for 25 years and was glad that I had the opportunity to do so. I will return to help if I get the chance.

However, sending PCVs back now is really a bad idea - for all of the reasons noted by the experienced folks on this page. Kabul is the only site that is remotely feasible, because the international security force is based there. And even that is hardly secure - witness the US Embassy which is a heavily fortified bunker. It is not the place for young Americans to be wandering around.

Even the very logical idea of putting teachers in the University, which they desperately need, is difficult, because there is next to no housing stock in Kabul. About 60% of the city is rubble, including most of the areas where volunteers used to live. Houses in the remaining areas are being snapped up by the UN and NGOs, and prices are skyrocketing.

I understand that the Peace Corps is considering sending former Afghanistan PCVs to work there for shorter periods of time (3 - 6 months). We certainly have the advantage of not being young and naive, as well as having some solid skills. It is a better idea, but the risk is very real. This is not the same country that we served in so long ago.

By Paul Rigterink on Thursday, May 02, 2002 - 1:49 pm: Edit Post

There are a lot of countries that Peace Corps should not send Volunteers from the point of view of Robert Young Peltonís book The Worldís Most Dangerous Places (HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, NY, NY). In particular, there are at least 58 countries where it can be dangerous for Americans to travel. In addition, over the last 10 years, there have been more than 100 wars with 20 million fatalities. On the other hand, there are 42 Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) and 1.3B UN Defined Poor People. There offers plenty of opportunities for the Peace Corps to help poor people besides Afghanistan. Unless the Peace Corps has a way of adequately protecting the Volunteers, they should stay out of dangerous countries.

By Laurence Budd on Friday, June 21, 2002 - 9:27 pm: Edit Post

I agree with all of you- I hung out in Afghanistan in '71 prior to my PC tour. I was talking to Dr. Maury Albertson, one of the designers of the PC way back when. He says a group of ex marines has offered to go in as an advance of PC, to add security, clear landmines, etc. A good idea. I agree with a comment above that if and when PC is sent in, it should be RPCVs who have been there before, and for short periods. A lot of risk- "where there is danger there is also opportunity" (to help the Afghans)

By Jackie on Tuesday, August 27, 2002 - 5:02 pm: Edit Post

I believe peace corps should go to Afghanistan sometime or another, maybe in 10 years maybe in one, but eventually. I feel bad for the people there, because not many people live that long there. I definatly think it would be a great idea to help them undertstand and learn more about the US.

By JohnHartley on Monday, March 10, 2003 - 3:35 pm: Edit Post

My wife and I served in Grenada ten years after the Marines had landed in Oct. of '83. Most Grenadians are very kind but there were some hostilites toward Americans as the result of our "intervention". There also was the inadvert bombing of a mental hospital and many were killed. Those memories die slowly and I shudder to think of PC Volunteers in Afganistan so recently after our military action. Regardless of how justified our cause may be, some host country nationals will harbor hostilities to Americans. Just cause, wrong location. Many deserving countries on the Peace Corps waiting list with much less risk. The Baptist missionary who lost his life last week in the Phillipines is an unfortunate example of what can happen.
As another writer wrote, we need to go back to Afganistan but not for several years, too dangerous now.
Its a shame that we (and Japan) have had to spend $3 billion a year in Korea for 53 years at a cost of $90,000 per troop when a volunteer costs $35,000. That $3 billion would buy another 102,000 volunteers. The return on our investment in a Peace Corps volunteer is enormous in worldly goodwill, in my view the greatest of all government agencies. Thanks JFK.

By Mahrokh Niaz on Thursday, April 03, 2003 - 4:28 am: Edit Post

Afghanistan is like no other country and it's people are quite unique too. You can ask some of the former Peace Corps like Mrs. Jacky Shaw about this. So You can be sure that Afghans have no bad feeling about Americans. They look at them as their saviours. The need for Peace Corps in Afghanistan is so great. I have applied for a job there, and when I am asked if I am worried about the security in Afghanistan, my response is that since I believe in God and distiny, whatever that is supposed to happen is going happen no matter where you are. As in a saying among Afghans: brave dies once and coward dies a thousand times. And I am sure God is going to be on the side of the brave Peace Corps in Afghanistan.

Mahrokh Niaz

By N. Bruce Nelson on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 11:55 am: Edit Post

I would like us to remember that Peace Corps is a *Volunteer* organization. If there are people with the willingness and skills to serve, and a request from the host country, on what basis do we deny the opportunity to serve? Why is it OK to send young people who are perhaps even more naive into military combat, and not to let volunteers, knowing the risks, work at peacemaking in Peace Corps service?

I was a PC volunteer in Iran in the '70s. I am extremely proud of many volunteers that I served with who are at the moment working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, and even dangerous parts of the US at considerable personal risk.

The full story of the influence of former Peace Corps volunteers and their work in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan can not yet be publically told without threatening ongoing work, but I can say from personal knowledge that it is extraordinary. With new opportunities to volunteer, this legacy can continue.

Of course there are costs. More than 300 Peace Corps volunteers have lost their lives in service.
We should honor this sacrifice as we do our military losses.

N. Bruce Nelson
RPCV Taft, Iran 1972-1974

By pennie on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 1:45 pm: Edit Post

I find the suggestion that Peace Corps should send volunteers into countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan to "improve its cooperation with the military" far from what the Peace Corps should be about. A better role might be to teach the military how to better work with the Iraqi and Afghan nationals ... and Japanese film crews. We could start with the thug who beat up the cameraman a couple of days ago. Do we really want to go where our compatriots are behaving so badly?

By derouind on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 1:12 am: Edit Post

Sending in PCVs where the US has started (and is still fighting) the war seems contrary to the mission. Volunteers would become an adjunct to the US foreign policy of conquest at will. I would never volunteer in this situation to support a wrong-headed foreign policy. Volunteers will become targets of opportunity and compromise the mission in the at-war nations as well as other countries where volunteers are currently effective. Dale Derouin RPCV Sierra Leone 65-67

By Pat Smith ( - on Sunday, October 19, 2003 - 9:30 pm: Edit Post

PCVs could eventually serve a traditional role in both Afghanistan and Iraq once peace has been established and a stable Host Country government requests them; for now a hot war continues in both countries, not the prime location for volunteers. For RPCVs from Muslim countries who care to offer their insights (and don't choke on an educational or liaison role to the US military or US government agencies), they might offer their cultural insights, linguistic and socialization skills, and in-country experience to a number of agencies including USAID, private contractors, ngo's, and even the US military if and when such services are solicited. As an RPCV who also served in the US Navy, my Peace Corps village skills came in handy in Micronesia when conducting humanitarian and socio-economic survey work. Humanitarian relief projects are indeed part of the US military mission and the distinction between the Marine Corps and the Peace Corps under some circumstances is not that great when the goal is to assist Host Country nationals. As I read the political commentaries of other RPCVs, I note many Vietnam hangovers out there as well as resentment of the Afghanistan and Iraq situations (probably Florida 2000 also!). I caution all of us who spent time in numerous countries to reflect on the political conditions we accepted while volunteers in many non-democratic and military regimes, attempting to give our best and rationalizing our successes and failures. I also remind folks that JFK also created the Green Beret and Special Forces in addition to the Peace Corps in the hopes of optimizing the tools and contributions that an American nation can offer other countries during times of need. We all have differences as we discovered during our Peace Corps years, to realize and accept those as we undertake united efforts to improve global circumstances may require that acceptance and sometimes rationalization for a greater good once again. Pat Smith Mali 1977-80, USN 1980-1987.

By Claire Fischer ( - on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 1:24 am: Edit Post

Hi I'm trying to reach a woman who posted March 26, 2002. Her name is Karen Speicher. I knew a woman named Karen Speicher 40 years ago, I was a young girl then, she was a young woman. Claire Fischer

My last name is now Sides.


By shaw ( on Sunday, February 13, 2005 - 11:11 am: Edit Post

be stay there unless and untill the forces of afghans have command on peace keeping and to handle the surrounding neighbours.

By Jackie Garrido ( on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 8:10 pm: Edit Post

Hi - I'm a volunteer with NEI (Nutrition Education International), an NGO that is working with local Afghan farmers to build a soybean production industry in Afghanistan. Our mission is to create a self-sustaining soy industry that will provide a protein source to women and children, defeating malnutrition, lowering mortality rates and successfully competing with poppy! During my recent trip to Afghanistan, we provided instruction to multiple families on how to add soy flour to their dominant food product - naan.

After spending quite some time perusing this site and reading through comments, I realize it will be sometime before the Peace Corps returns to Afghanistan but I continue in my quest to speak with someone from the organization who can help us identify anyone who will volunteer or partner with NEI to drive our mission forward. We are currently looking for funding, partnerships and volunteers (both in Afghanistan and Los Angeles), so any help is appreciated.

Our website:

You may contact me directly at with any information you feel will help us in our efforts. Thanks!

My best to you!

Jackie :-)

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