This is the "Documentary Film" page of the "Modern Afghanistan: Making Meaning in the Aftermath of Conflict" guide.
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Modern Afghanistan: Making Meaning in the Aftermath of Conflict   Tags: primary source world  

Last Updated: May 27, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Documentary Film Print Page

About this Activity

Suggested for grades 9-12


Key Questions

1. What are some of the challenges that people in Afghanistan have encountered in their efforts to rebuild their nation in the aftermath of conflict?

2. What is the relationship between local people and external aid programs in a nation struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of conflict?

3. How should reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan proceed in the future?


Curriculum Connections

Try using this activity when teaching about...

  • Contemporary Afghanistan
  • The aftermath of September 11th
  • Economic aid to war torn regions
  • "winning hearts and minds"

Common Core Connections

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.



In conflict-laden regions, improving the region's infrastructure is often seen as a key to restoring stability and security. In Afghanistan, a nation that has witnessed more than 30 years of war, a number of different reconstruction efforts have occurred since the U.S.-led military intervention, with varying degrees of success. Using what has been termed a "hearts and minds" approach to military policy, the United States and its allies have focused on rebuilding infrastructure as a way to foster support among the Afghan people. The different reconstruction models in Afghanistan illustrate the various tensions involved when outside nations work to rebuild war torn regions. This activity draws upon a documentary film to consider those issues and asks the following questions: What is the optimal relationship between external aid providers and local participation? What factors are important to consider?

Numerous government and nongovernmental organizations have been involved in rebuilding Afghanistan. The documentary film featured here focuses on two of these programs. The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), was established in late 2002 as a collaboration between the military (U.S.-led Coalition and NATO forces) and the civilian population for the purpose of improving security, government, and facilitating reconstruction. PRTs operated in various regions and were designed to create programs that reached local needs and focused on activities such as building or improving power grids, communication, schools, literacy, vaccinations, and creating jobs. Evidence of the program’s impact is limited. However, some critics of the program claim that these teams often built facilities that the nation of Afghanistan could not afford or sustain long-term and that the programs subverted the Afghan central government.

Similarly, the National Solidarity Program (NSP), the largest development program in Afghanistan, was established in 2003 under the Afghan government (with donor partners that included the World Bank, USAID, the United Kingdom, Japan and other members of the international community) to aid in reconstruction. NSP efforts centered on locally-controlled "Community Development Councils" throughout Afghanistan that allowed local villagers to decide what reconstruction projects to pursue. This greater degree of input from and empowerment of the local community bolstered the success of the NSP. Proponents have hailed the program as a model for other nations.

In this activity, students will watch a pre-production reel of the film Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War to examine how the PRT and NSP programs operated in Afghanistan and consider how reconstruction efforts are negotiated in the aftermath of conflict. Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War, produced by Community Supported Film and filmed by Afghans, provides a local Afghan perspective on rebuilding efforts. The film's trailer provides an overview of some of these reconstruction programs and allows students to consider how foreigners and locals have worked together to make changes that can last.



Bottom-Up Development Economic and social development cultivating local decision-making and empowerment.
Community Development Council (CDC) A local government structure established under Afghanistan's National Solidarity Program to facilitate local participation in reconstruction efforts.
Counterinsurgency Political or military strategy to combat guerilla or irregular warfare or subversion.
National Solidarity Program (NSP) Created in 2003 by the government of Afghanistan, this program supports community-led development to promote local governance and empowerment in reconstruction efforts.
Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Teams of combined civilian and military personnel to secure reconstruction in Afghanistan and improve security, governance, and economic development. This program ran from 2003 to 2011 and was led by U.S. and NATO Coalition commanders.
"winning hearts and minds" A term that has become associated with counterinsurgency military campaigns, referring to attempts to gain popular support for interventionist policies.

Pre-learning Activity


  • Handout #1: "Winning Hearts and Mind" (download from left column)


1. Since the film begins with quotes about "winning hearts and minds," ask students to define the phrase "winning hearts and minds" and describe the contexts in which they have come across the phrase (if any).

2. Show students the quotes featuring the phrase "hearts and minds" found on Handout #1. (You can give students the handout or project the quotes to the whole class. For links to the full text from which these quotes were excerpted, see additional resources.)

3. Have students read the quotes and discuss what the phrase means in each quote.

4. Drawing on their discussion of the quotes, ask students to redefine the phrase "winning hearts and minds"

5. If this has not occurred in the discussion, explain the origins and meaning of the phrase. "Winning hearts and minds" is commonly associated with military situations, particularly in cases dealing with counterinsurgencies. One of the first uses of the phrase was in 1818 when John Adams described the American Revolution as a change in people's beliefs and values. The phrase later became associated with American actions during the Vietnam War and the campaign to quell insurgencies in the South, providing a somewhat negative connotation for the phrase. More recently, the phrase has been associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and has been used to describe counterinsurgency strategies.

6. Ask students what they think "winning hearts and minds" means to the U.S. Military and to people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since this theme appears within the first minute of the documentary film, return to this question after students have viewed the film.


Primary Source Activity


  • Computer with Internet Access and LCD projector
  • Film Trailer: Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War
  • Handout #2: Graphic Organizer (download from left column)
  • Handout #3: Graphic Organizer Teacher Key (download from left column)


1. Explain to students that they are going to watch a clip from a film that is currently in production called Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War. This clip documents two different programs intended to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan: 1) the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which is a U.S. military program, and 2) the National Solidarity Program (NSP), an initiative sponsored by the Afghan government and funded by various international agencies and governments. (See background essay for further information.)

2. Ask students to watch the film closely to see how the two programs provide assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan.

3. Show the film. (The film is an 11-minute introduction to a film that is currently in production. Although you may find it most useful to show the full 11 minutes, students would be able to complete this activity if you stopped the film 7 minutes into the clip.)

4. (Optional) Before moving to the next step, you might want to assess student comprehension of the film clip by asking some of the following questions:

a. What is the Provincial Reconstruction Team?

b. What is the National Solidarity Program?

c. Who makes the decisions in each program?

d. What is the cost of each program? Who pays for each program?

e. During the meeting of the Community Development Council (4:36), what were some of the projects that the Afghan people wanted to fund?

f. What problems did the PRT face in the film at the school construction site (6:25)?

5. Distribute Handout #2: Graphic Organizer.

a. Ask students to write down the similarities between the two programs in the box at the top and then look at the differences between the two with regard to program implementation, from the point of view of the Afghan people, and from the point of view of the U.S. military.

b. The fourth topic has been left blank so that you can choose something else in the film for students to focus on or allow the students to choose their own concept.

c. In the last two boxes students should think about the challenges of reconstruction and the impact of the two programs.

6. Have a class discussion about students' answers. (See Handout #3: Graphic Organizer Teacher Key for discussion points.)

7. Assessment: Have students write an essay in which they use their analysis of the graphic organizer, the film, and any additional research to write a persuasive essay dealing with the following question: Using Afghanistan as a case study, what roles should external organizations/nations and the local population play in rebuilding a war-torn nation?


Extension Activity

1. Explore other models of international aid (e.g., the Peace Corps, Partners in Health, USAID, CARE, United Nations Development Programme, International Development Association (World Bank), etc.). How do these programs compare to the PRT and NSP? What elements are essential for successful aid programs?


2. Have students conduct research on counterinsurgency efforts during the Vietnam War. Compare U.S. actions in Afghanistan with U.S. actions in Vietnam in regards to “winning hearts and minds” and reconstruction.


About the Author

Ann Marie Gleeson is a program director at Primary Source. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Boston College and a Master's degree in history. Ann Marie's research interests include social studies methods, primary source-based learning, and teacher education.


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