Sunday’s news stories about the unauthorized release of six years of classified reports about the discouraging Afghan war happened to coincide with my reading “Stones Into Schools,” Greg Mortenson’s sequel to his now world-famous book “Three Cups of Tea.”


Sunday’s news stories about the unauthorized release of six years of classified reports about the discouraging Afghan war happened to coincide with my reading “Stones Into Schools,” Greg Mortenson’s sequel to his now world-famous book “Three Cups of Tea.”

I see some connection between this new book, published last fall, and the 92,000 once secret reports.

The book tells more stories about the remarkably successful efforts to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite huge hurdles, including the deadly work of the Taliban focused against education for girls.

Basic to the success is Mortenson’s school building projects is the principle of getting to know and appreciate the local people.

His company, Central Asia Institute, does its work with no government help.

Because Mortenson has established such an amazing record of dealing with the people “on the ground,” his methods are influencing the tactics of American military leaders.

One of them, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is quoted in the book:

“The Muslim community,” Mullen says, “is a subtle world we don’t fully — and don’t always — attempt to understand. Only through a shared appreciation of the people’s culture, needs, and hopes for the future can we hope ourselves to supplant the extremist narrative.

“We cannot capture hearts and minds. We must engage them; we must listen to them, one heart and one mind at a time.”

From the book and from the new information about the lagging course of the war, two conclusions come to mind.

One is that the terror and cruelty practiced by the extremist Muslim forces must be overcome, for the sake of the rest of the world as well as for the people of Afghanistan. If the extremist elements are not subdued, the whole world is at greater risk.

And the second conclusion is that the U.S. role in the military struggle will take much longer than this country’s announced deadlines for our armed forces to leave the scene.