Afghan Students Train to Combat Cultural Property Trafficking

April 22, 2019

Nineteen students from universities throughout Afghanistan participated in a groundbreaking cultural property program that brought U.S. faculty, virtually, to a classroom in Kabul.

Over the course of 15 weeks, students discussed topics in international law and law enforcement, site looting and vandalism, the role of public outreach in protecting cultural heritage, and the illicit trade of cultural property from both local and global perspectives.

This distance-learning course is part of the Afghanistan Cultural Heritage Education Program, a multi-year initiative supported by the Department of State’s Cultural Antiquities Task Force in partnership with the National Park Service Archaeology Program and the University of Arizona (UA). The goal of this program is to enhance capacity in Afghanistan to protect heritage sites and objects from looting and trafficking. This spring’s course, developed by UA’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, is the second online class on cultural heritage taught by UA faculty for Afghan students.

“Trafficking in cultural heritage is linked to other kinds of crime, including drug and human trafficking,” says David Gadsby, a National Park Service official. “Understanding the networks through which looted antiquities travel helps with other law enforcement efforts.”

Through initiatives like the Afghanistan Cultural Heritage Education Program, the United States is able to promote stability, economic development and good governance in partner countries, while denying critical financing to terrorist organizations and other criminal networks that engage in this illicit trade.

About the Cultural Antiquities Task Force

Created by the State Department in 2004 at the direction of the U.S. Congress, the CATF comprises federal agencies that share a common mission to combat trafficking in antiquities in the United States and abroad. Since its creation, the CATF has supported more than 75 domestic and international cultural property training programs. CATF is managed by the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.