Taliban ‘takeover’ of American university sparks outrage

For years, the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) was the benchmark of international quality education in the war-ridden country, but now the Taliban regime has set out plans to run it their way.

To the surprise and outrage of the AUAF management, the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have chalked out plans to transform the private non-profit Western-style academic institution into their own self-styled Afghan International University (AIU), in what appears to be an expropriation by the Taliban of AUAF buildings on land leased by AUAF from the Afghanistan government in Kabul.

“No AUAF-sponsored or sanctioned activities have occurred on either campus since August 15, 2021”, AUAF management said in a statement on 8 September responding to reports of Taliban plans to transform the university established in 2006 and built largely with funding from the United States, including from USAID.

The AUAF statement referred to video segments that Kabul released via Pashto-language Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) and on the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education websites on 4 June and 30 August this year which show AUAF’s International and West campuses on Darulaman Road, Kabul.

No consultation

“Both video segments [aired by the RTA] referenced the creation of the Afghan International University but were not explicit regarding the intended location of this institution,” the AUAF said.

“However, a banner is visible at the entrance to the West Campus bearing the name of the Afghan International University in Pashto, Dari, Arabic and English,” AUAF said, adding: “AUAF has no role in the newly announced university, nor has AUAF been consulted in its creation or location.”

The AUAF, which has set up a campus in Qatar with the support of the Qatar Foundation and other agencies and provides classes online, reiterated this week that it intends to return to Kabul and resume instruction at the International and West campuses “when conditions allow”.

When asked what the next move would be for the AUAF management regarding the Taliban takeover of the campus, Jeff Gardner, AUAF acting chief of staff, told University World News: “Given the delicate nature of the situation in Afghanistan, AUAF cannot comment on our actions, either underway or pending.”

When contacted, the Taliban’s Deputy Minister for Higher Education Mohammad Ismail said: “We had 39 public universities; now we have established the 40th university which is called the Afghan International University which would only cater for postgraduate studies.”

He added that teaching staff have been interviewed and entry tests for the students would commence soon.

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