America Responds
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Grieving man
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President and Mrs. Bush
Classroom Resources

Afghanistan And Its Neighbors: Model Summit
Grade Level: High (10-12)
Estimated Time: 5-6 one-hour sessions

Lesson Overview:
As U.S. officials plan retaliation to the terrorist attacks on September 11, help students understand the complex relationships America has with countries in Central Asia and the Middle East. Students will research the recent political history of one country in the region and represent its interests at a model international summit designed to debate response to the terrorist attacks on America and propose measures to achieve long-term stability in that part of the world.

Related National Standards from McREL:

  • Understands the impact of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War (e.g., the effects of United States and Soviet competition for influence or dominance upon such countries as Egypt, Iran, the Congo, Vietnam, Chile, and Guatemala)
  • Understands the impact of independence movements in various countries and whether they were successful
  • Understands the strategic role of the Muslim countries during the Cold War (e.g., the importance of geography, economy, and population) and the change in the region's role since the breakup of the Soviet Union
  • Understands the role of political ideology, religion, and ethnicity in shaping modern governments
  • Understands the role of ethnicity, cultural identity, and religious beliefs in shaping economic and political conflicts across the globe (e.g., why terrorist movements have proliferated and the extent of their impact on politics and society in various countries; the tensions and contradictions between globalizing trends of the world economy and assertions of traditional cultural identity and distinctiveness, including the challenges to the role of religion in contemporary society; the meaning of jihad and other Islamic beliefs that are relevant to military activity, how these compare to the Geneva Accords, and how such laws and principles apply to terrorist acts)
  • Understands common arguments of opposition groups in various countries around the world, common solutions they offer, and the position of these ideas with regard to Western economic and strategic interests



  1. Afghanistan figures prominently in media and political discussions following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Begin the lesson by asking students about Afghanistan. Where is it located? Why was it the focus of attention after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.?

  2. Use a world map to locate Afghanistan. Who are its immediate neighbors? List these other countries (India, Pakistan, etc.) on the blackboard or overhead projector.

  3. As U.S. politicians have debated possible retaliation against the terrorists who planned and carried out the attacks on September 11, they have considered a military operation in Afghanistan. There has been some concern, however, about the incredible challenges the U.S. would face in carrying out a successful military strike or war in that country. What are some of the factors that might make it very challenging for the U.S. to win a war against Afghanistan? Discuss with students what they've heard, and add to the discussion these ideas:
    • Afghanistan is a landlocked country (refer to the map). Any supplies, troops, etc. that the U.S. or its allies require would have to be carried in or airlifted into Afghanistan--a more difficult proposition than if the country had accessible ports.
    • Afghanistan is extremely mountainous; the terrain lends itself to small-scale guerrilla warfare, not the type of large-scale operations the U.S. has conducted in other campaigns.
    • Afghanistan is quite diverse, comprised of many different ethnic groups speaking more than 30 languages. Creating a widespread civilian support base would be extremely difficult.
    • The United States would need to build a coalition with neighboring countries whose relationship with America historically has been complicated and often contentious.

  4. Explain that different countries may have very different perspectives about America's response to the terrorist attacks. It will be your students' job to explore these perspectives.

  5. Explain to students that the class will be holding a model summit of nations to answer the following questions:
    • What should be done (by America and/or other nations) in response to the terrorist attacks on America, September 11, 2001?
    • What will improve relationships between nations in the Middle East and Central Asia long-term?

  6. Divide students into groups and ask each group to research one of the following countries. Their research should focus on the recent history of that country (since 1975) to provide some context to the country's present alliances and policies. Specifically, each group may want to focus on these questions as they research:
    1. Who are this country's allies and enemies? Have there been any dramatic shifts in relationships with particular nations?
    2. What is this country's relationship with America (in the past quarter-century and now)?
    3. What is this country's position on separatism (religious, cultural) particularly in relationship to Western nations?
    4. Has this country been involved in any significant military encounters in the last quarter-century?
    5. What is the state of this country's economy relative to other nations in the area?

  7. Countries to research and suggested links are listed below. General reference sites (applicable to any of the countries listed) include:

    1. Pakistan (particularly their involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War, relationship to Taliban)

    2. Saudi Arabia (particularly Gulf War, relationship with U.S., relationship with Taliban, relationship to Osama bin Laden)
      Saudi Arabia Information Resource
      Frontline: Hunting bin Laden

    3. Uzbekistan (particularly terrorist bombings there in 1999)
      Washington Post: Uzbeks Eager To Join U.S. Alliance (9/17/01)

    4. Tajikistan
      Federation of American Scientists Military Science Network: Tajikistan Civil War

    5. Iran
      Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting

    6. Iraq (particularly Gulf War, economic sanctions, U.N. security inspections)
      CNN: Inspecting Iraq
      Frontline: The Survival of Saddam
      Frontline: Spying on Saddam
      The Iraq Foundation

    7. Russia (particularly Soviet-Afghan War, support of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance)
      BBC News: Afghanistan's Years of Bloodshed

    8. Turkmenistan
      United Nations in Turkmenistan

    9. Sudan (particularly U.S. bombing of, 1998, relationship with Osama bin Laden)
      Sudan's Man-Made Famine
      PBS Frontline: Hunting bin Laden

    10. Afghanistan (particularly Soviet-Afghan War, Taliban, relatinship with Osama bin Laden)
      Afghanistan: A History of Foreign Intervention (Human Rights Watch)
      TIME: Afghanistan: The Famine The World Forgot
      Atlantic Unbound: Inside the Jihad

  8. After the group has conducted its research, ask each group to prepare a brief position paper (no more than one page) outlining its answers to the questions posed in number five, above. The group should adopt the perspective of the country studied (the prevailing perspective, from what the group can conclude through research) and support its views with historical and contemporary evidence.

  9. Convene the model international summit. Ask each delegation to create a flag or other symbol of identification and introduce itself. Following introductions, pose the two questions again, and invite each delegation to present its position paper. As each group presents, write its recommendations on the blackboard or overhead projector. Note similarities and differences of opinion.

  10. After the summit, hold a class discussion. Based on what they've learned, what would students recommend to President Bush and other elected officials? Make copies of the position papers for each student and have students use them to create an editorial or letter to elected officials.

  11. Letters to elected officials may be sent via e-mail or regular U.S. mail. Addresses may be obtained from

Student understanding should be assessed through:

  • contribution to class discussion
  • group research project on a particular country (accuracy and detail of information presented)
  • group position paper for model summit: clear recommendations and good supporting evidence
  • letter or editorial produced at the end of the lesson: clear recommendations and good supporting evidence

PBS Primetime Coverage
PBS provided nightly coverage and analysis of the terrorist attacks on the United States with "America Responds."

Key PBS Resources:

Online NewsHour
Ongoing coverage and analysis.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Helping children cope.