Veterans Day Lunchtime Speaker Event feat. Professor Jack Goldsmith

The Implications of the Snowden Leaks and the Future of the War on Al Qaeda and Affiliates

Lecture by Professor Goldsmith followed by Q&A until 12:55 pm. Lunch will be served.  Please be seated by 12:05 pm.

Please join the Armed Forces Association on Veteran’s Day this year for a special lunchtime speaker event featuring Prof. Goldsmith.  We are so excited that Prof. Goldsmith has offered to spend some time with the Vets on such a special day, and both the National Security Journal and National Security Law Association have graciously agreed to co-sponsor the event!

Location: WCC 1010, Harvard Law School


U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims comes to Harvard Law School on Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CAVC_Final_50Click here for more information and any updated information. Two HLS students, 3L Bradley Hinshelwood and AFA’s own 2L Christopher Melendez, will be arguing Ausmer v. Shinseki in front of the three-judge panel. Juan Arguello, another AFA 2L, conducted research in support of the case.  Please join us at HLS for this very special event!

HLS Welcome Back Happy Hour / 1L Info Session

Date: Friday, September 27

Time: 1700

Location: Newtowne Grille, Porter Square

Welcome back to a new academic year, AFA! Time to make it official with a Happy Hour!! We will also be giving all the 1Ls some crucial information, tricks of the trade, etc. This is a great opportunity to say hello to those in our community you haven’t seen all summer, as well as chance to meet the new 1Ls joining us on this law school trek. Please come out to this welcome event, even if you can only make it for a little while. Spouses and significant others are more than welcome. We look forward to seeing you there!!

~Maria, Jeremy, and Spencer


Darren Gardner (Class of 2014) – Training the Taliban’s most dangerous enemies: educated girls

DarrenNow that I’m back on U.S. soil, I look back at my summer working and teaching at Afghanistan’s first girls boarding school, SOLA, and know that the summer was about more than imparting knowledge of continents, how to write an e-mail, and the present perfect verb tense.  Educating girls who would have been executed—along with their teachers—a decade ago for going to school would be a worthwhile cause by itself, but SOLA is about more than educating a handful of gifted, lucky Afghans.  The U.S. military and ISAF can’t force lasting change on Afghanistan through missiles or bullets.  Afghans need be enabled to fix their own country, and the best way to do that is, and always has been, the education and empowerment of Afghan women.

Educated women grow up with a broader view of the world, and so do their children.  Education frees them from uncertainty, ignorance and poverty, each of which the Taliban requires to hold power.  This why the Taliban has targeted hundreds of girls’ schools since the U.S. invaded in October, 2001, and why those schools need to continue to operate.  Schools like SOLA in particular produce the college-educated leaders who can drive the enormous cultural shift and development necessary to ensure not only widespread access to education, but rejection of the brand of radical Islam and oppressive ideas that permeated Afghanistan before 2001.  For that reason, there’s no battlefield more necessary to fight on than the one in thousands of classrooms across the struggling country.

On the one hand, my time in Afghanistan fills me with hope for the country’s future.  I had experiences that few westerners ever have. I played a morning soccer game with 20 young Afghan men on a rock-filled dirt pitch and danced at a wedding with 1,200 guests, neither of which would have been possible under the Taliban. I ate dinner with a general in the Afghan army who has proudly seen all his daughters attend top colleges, and I was invited into the homes of Afghans, both rich and poor, and was exposed to their extreme generosity and hospitality.  I saw new businesses opening and minds changing.  I spoke to some of the government officials who work every day, under constant threat of death, to rebuild a country decimated by war, violence, and repression of both ideas and people.

I became friends with a young Afghan woman who saw both the backwards mindset of the past and the changing attitudes of the future as she courageously taught boys in their public schools – possibly for the first time – about respect for women.  I saw dozens of young Afghans piled painfully into the back of a dump truck and others walking miles down steep mountain roads as they traveled to learn at distant schools in rural Panjshir province.  I met fathers who drove across Afghanistan, putting their reputations and their lives at risk, in order to give their daughters a chance at a better life by delivering an application to SOLA.

I taught some of Afghanistan’s most gifted girls as they learned about an exciting world filled with diverse ideas and people.  They told me over and over in moving, eloquent, English language about their desire for all Afghans – not just themselves – to receive an education.

On the other hand, when I visited Afghans’ homes, I traveled to them discreetly, knowing that each one of these hosts was risking violence to themselves and their families by inviting a foreigner in.  Armed guards stood behind every gate and concertina wire wound around the top of the seemingly endless grid of fences and concrete barriers.  I saw numerous Afghans missing eyes and limbs and entire sections of Kabul still in ruin from decades of war.  Many days I remained indoors, listening and waiting for news that the most recent Taliban attack had ended as conflict continued to envelop the country.

I saw the girls I taught moved to tears as they described the difficulties they and their friends had to overcome simply to be in school and the powerful forces that fought to keep them out.  After an attack, a 13-year-old girl calmly asked me “how many people died this time?” as if she were so used to news of death and violence that it could be discussed in the same tone as the weather forecast.  During my stay I read that a prominent female police officer and a female senator were killed by the Taliban as the group struggled to silence those women who spoke the loudest against their ideas.

I learned that even among the new generation, which never really knew Taliban rule, many young men support the Taliban’s treatment of women and believe that any ills women suffer are because of their refusal to accept the oppressive code of behavior that effectively imprisoned them before 2001.  Stories of forced underage marriages, rampant sexual harassment, and males forbidding schooling for female relatives were so commonplace they ceased to be shocking.

There are certainly times when I wonder if Afghanistan’s problems are simply too intractable to solve.  However, each time a student asked me for an extra homework assignment to complete or story to read, or told me about how she had corrected a family member’s mistaken preconceptions of the world upon returning to her home in a distant province, I felt those doubts subside.  This is an attempt worth making; a fight worth having.

Jeff Stern, a journalist for Atlantic Magazine who lived with me at SOLA, published a piece recently that echoes my thoughts on Afghanistan and how I view that country’s future.

“…The feeling I have is that the Taliban is facing a simple numbers problem. There are just too many people who’ve built houses here, too many people opening restaurants, too many people playing soccer, too many people learning new languages, too many people, for the Taliban to do more than insert slivers of violence into city life, to serve as a disruptive criminal syndicate settling scores, capable of terrific violence and trauma, but not of ever really coming back. Not of taking the country; not of any kind of writ beyond the places in the provinces where they have it now.

This is not to minimize the threat they pose, a threat which they are making good on with so much frequency that when a few days pass without an attack there’s a palpable feeling in the air that’s not altogether different from abandonment; suspense at least. And yet, on this night, Afghanistan is still out playing soccer and volleyball, getting stuck in rush hour, praying along to the soundtrack of the competing muezzin. So I allow myself this thought: maybe this is what winning will have to look like.”

But winning is not just rush-hour traffic, soccer and busy restaurants.  It’s also henna flowers on hands, colorful headscarves drying on the clothesline, and the tiresome chorus from a Backstreet Boys song playing on repeat.  From where I’m sitting, winning in Afghanistan looks an awful lot like a girls boarding school.

September 11th Spirit Run (led by Navy ROTC)

Wednesday, September 11th , 2:45-5:00pm

Who: All Harvard affiliated veterans
Where: Meet at Boston University NROTC Building, 116 Bay State Rd, Boston
Why: Join the area’s NROTC midshipmen, including Harvard College NROTC students, in a run along the Esplanade to Boston Commons.  Learn about several relevant monuments in the Commons and end with a thought-provoking reflection at the September 11th Memorial.  The event is designed to be educational, physical, and reflective.
Uniform:   PT uniform
Organized by: Boston NROTC Consortium.  Please contact Catherine Brown at if you would like to attend.

2013-14: Welcome 1Ls, and welcome back 2Ls and 3Ls!

On behalf of the HLS Armed Forces Association, we hope you enjoyed your summer.

This year, AFA and the other Veterans groups across Harvard will be taking the initiative to join in the attempt to create a stronger and more cohesive network. Please take a look at and feel free to join! 
We are looking for anyone interested in the following positions within AFA:
Service VP: the person who is dedicated to giving back to the Vet community. We can work with the Vet Clinical, gather cards and care packages during holidays, and we have a few other potentially amazing initiatives that will be very fun and fulfilling. Please note that service is not a requirement for being affiliated with AFA, and this will be strictly to create opportunities for those who wish to get involved.
Events VP: the person who loves coordinating events. Jeremy and I have some great ideas, and we would be open to others! AFA events tend to be pretty interesting, and our goal this year is to provide opportunities for non-Veteran students to learn about national security, Veterans, DoD, etc. issues they might not be aware of due to lack of exposure.
VP position of your choice: if there is something you would like to do for AFA and don’t see it above, let us know. We are flexible!!
Please let us know if you are interested ASAP!!
Stand by for upcoming HLS and Harvard-wide Veteran events. There are several, and we will notify you of them in a timely fashion!Finally, as a reminder, AFA’s organizational email address is – please use this email as a point of contact for the AFA if you have any questions, comments, gripes, complaints, etc.
Maria and Jeremy
HLS AFA Co-Presidents