The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul has recently reopened after being close for seven months following a terror attack that left at least thirteen dead including seven students and one professor.
“The attackers wanted to permanently close this excellent center of learning. They failed,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and current member of the university’s Board of Trustees. “I wish the AUAF success in delivering on its mission: to educate its students and provide them with 21st century skills, who can lead successful lives and, in turn, can help Afghanistan succeed.”
In August, armed militants stormed the grounds of the university at around 7pm Kabul time, trapping approximately 160 people inside the buildings during a ten hour siege. Two attackers were eventually shot and killed by security forces.
Security has increased in the wake of the attack; the height of the boundary wall has nearly doubled and gun towers and checkpoints are now run by armed guards. In addition, student orientation focused heavily on security training.
The attack has not deterred 80 new students from enrolling in the university this semester, increasing the number of attendees to 1,700 students, the highest number in a year ever for the school. Despite many international organizations pulling staff out of the country amid security concerns, the university says that many foreign faculty members have chosen to stay.
The university, which opened in 2006, is located in the center of Kabul, and frequently receives assistance and high praise from American dignitaries, including former first lady Laura Bush who has raised substantial money for the school.
The school has been a target for militants who oppose American intervention in Afghanistan and the education of women and girls. A few weeks prior to the attack, two professors from the university, an American and an Australian, were kidnapped at gunpoint from their vehicle near the campus by men dressed as members of the Afghan security forces. They are still missing.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s 2016 report showed an increase in conflict related civilian casualties to the highest recorded number since 2009. According to the report, attacks by anti-government forces, most significantly the Taliban, accounted for 61 percent of the civilian casualties, with casualties caused by ISIS increasing by ten times in 2016.
Media Resources: VOA 3/26/17; Times Higher Education 4/11/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 8/26/16, 2/13/17; Reuters 3/27/17