Afghanistan is America's longest war, marking its tenth anniversary this Friday, October 7.
American media will put Afghanistan into the spotlight this week, but interest in the region remains focused on crisis, stagnation, and isolation: images of terrorism and a fragile democracy will likely dominate coverage. But how well do we really understand the country? Probably not at all. In a National Geographic poll, nine out of ten Americans cannot even find Afghanistan on a map.
In reality, Afghanistan is a place that has been home to diverse cultures, empires, and traditions — and is a place where an equally interconnected future will unfold.
Asia Society explores this idea through Homeland Afghanistan, a website that tells the story of the place through 75 video episodes, featuring experts as well as hundreds of archaeological finds, paintings, literary works, music, photographs and documentary films.
The project also explores Afghanistan as a geopolitical hotspot. It had been a battleground for rival powers, all of which left their mark on its history, culture and people. Over the course of its turbulent past, the country has been influenced by the presence of Persians, Greeks, Huns, Mongols, Moghuls, Russians, British and Soviets and, now, Americans. Arguably, the same geopolitics that were at play in the ancient and medieval worlds still matter today. What can history teach us?
We named the project after an Afghan word, watan, which loosely translates to mean “homeland.” Homeland has meaning in every culture. The homeland may be where ancestors are buried, where one is born, or an adopted land. The site of both bounty and misfortune, it is a setting that connects the past to the future. Today, the United States and Afghanistan are inextricably linked: the only true way to secure one homeland is through understanding the other.
We hope this website will give broad audiences a better understanding of Afghan people and patterns, and will find themselves compelled to think differently about the complex world region.