Essay: Americans Working in a Muslim Environment
In a review of the effectiveness of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) — teams of U.S. soldiers working with U.S. civilian and Afghan advisors — in helping to reconstruct Afghanistan, McNerney (2005-2006) noted with some incredulity that anecdotal evidence of Afghans’ improved attitudes toward U.S. military and civilian personnel was offered as the primary proof of Afghan satisfaction with U.S. presence.
McNerney (2005-2006) also noted that “the most common measure of success cited to the author by PRT representatives was (no kidding) ‘the number of smiling Afghan children’,” (p. 39). While McNerney found evidence on positive relationship-building between local Afghans and U.S. military and civilian workers, short tours of duty (generally six months for the PRTs but sometimes as brief as three months) hampered the development of meaningful exchange built through a genuine understanding of each culture. The implication is that understanding the Muslim socio-cultural forces that have shaped Afghan civilization is one part of the equation for demonstrating cultural competence, but there is also the need to build long term relationships that support that understanding.
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