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Last modified: Tuesday, June 3, 2008

IU receives grant to train Provincial Reconstruction Team commanders heading to Afghanistan

June 3, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region (CeLCAR) has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to provide language and culture training to 70 senior U.S. military officials who will command and participate in 12 U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan.

Over an intensive two-week period, officers and members of the PRTs will work on improving their abilities to speak and understand the two primary languages spoken in Afghanistan -- Pashto and Dari -- and become more knowledgeable about non-verbal forms of communication there, as well as its culture, politics, sociology, geography, history and religion.

PRTs are civilian-military efforts to help Afghanistan's provincial and local governments govern effectively and deliver essential humanitarian services. The PRTs consist of a small operating base from which a group of 60 to more than 1,000 civilians and military specialists work to perform reconstruction projects or provide security for others involved in aid and reconstruction work.

IU is the only U.S. university which offers accredited courses and develops training materials in Pashto, as well as several other strategic languages spoken in Central Asia. This will be the first time that such PRT training has been on a campus and away from the military base, said Paul Foster, director of the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region.

"We have world class experts in Afghan languages and cultures," Foster said. "CeLCAR has developed a new Pashto textbook, multimedia CDs, podcasts, curricula and programs for Afghan languages. We are also teaching Pashto as a distant education course so our experience in such matters is considerable."

CeLCAR is one of only 15 Title VI Language Resource Centers in the U.S. and the only one working on the strategic languages of the Central Asian region. As part of the College of Arts and Sciences, CeLCAR works closely with language and literature departments to further develop materials, curricula and research in the teaching and learning of less commonly taught languages.

This is the second important announcement since the development of the Strategic Languages and Cultures Task Force at IU, which President Michael A. McRobbie created last year to explore IU's opportunities to strengthen its connections with the U.S. departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security on language and culture education, training and policy. Last May, IU announced a $481,630 grant to provide strategic language and culture training to undergraduates in Reserve Officer Training Corps programs nationally.

"IU is being very entrepreneurial in offering this type of training," McRobbie said. "This may be a good model with other languages and other training missions."

The task force is working in close coordination with the IU Center on American and Global Security (CAGS). Building on IU's nationally and globally recognized expertise and experience in many academic fields relevant to security policy, CAGS serves as the focal point of the university's commitment to helping governments, educational institutions, international organizations, non-governmental entities and populations in Indiana, the United States and abroad respond effectively to the diverse threats that affect the security of communities all over the world.