Posted by: Christian | May 9, 2008

Michael Bhatia Killed in Khost

On occasion, due to the nature of their studies, social scientists do put themselves at risk. This was sadly evident yesterday with the death of Michael Bhatia in Khost province, Afghanistan. Bhatia, a PhD student at Oxford, was embedded with American troops at FOB Salerno in Khost when he was killed along with six others. This report does not name anybody but it is obviously the incident in question.

Photo: Michael Vinay Bhatia.

Michael Bhatia

This is the obituary from the Watson Institute, where he had been involved in a research project:

Michael Vinay Bhatia ’99 died yesterday in Afghanistan, where he as working as a social scientist in consultation with the US Defense Department.

In addition to graduating magna cum laude in international relations from Brown University, Michael was a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute from July 2006 to June 2007. At the Institute, he was involved in a research project on Cultural Awareness in the Military, writing his PhD dissertation, and teaching a senior seminar on “The US Military: Global Supremacy, Democracy and Citizenship.”

Over several years, Michael’s research and humanitarian work took him to such conflict zones as Sahrawi refugee camps, East Timor, and Kosovo, in addition to Afghanistan.

Of his work in Afghanistan, Michael wrote in November: “The program has a real chance of reducing both the Afghan and American lives lost, as well as ensuring that the US/NATO/ISAF strategy becomes better attuned to the population’s concerns, views, criticisms and interests and better supports the Government of Afghanistan.”

The dissertation he was working on at Oxford University is titled “The Mujahideen: A Study of Combatant Motives in Afghanistan, 1978-2005.” Bhatia had previously done research in Afghanistan for the Overseas Development Institute, the Small Arms Survey, the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, the UK Department for International Development (via the International Policy Institute, King’s College, London) — and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The book he co-authored with Mark Sedra, “Afghanistan, Arms and Conflict: Armed Groups, Disarmament and Security in a Post-war Society,” is due to be released this summer. You can see a recent photo essay by Bhatia here, part II here and part III here. It is in these essays that you will find Bhatia’s high level of respect and sympathy for the people of Afghanistan.

Instead of sitting on the sidelines and complaining, like most of us do, Michael Bhatia got involved on the ground and put himself at enormous risk. And that’s why I have such enormous respect for the guy.

[Note added: I did not know Michael Bhatia personally, only by his solid reputation.]


Final Update: Please visit The QWU Blog, where there is a personal tribute from a friend plus all the links to new about Michael Bhatia’s life and his passing. Any remaining questions you may have will likely be answered there.


  1. […] Ghosts of Alexander blog on the Passing of Michael Bhatia […]

  2. Here’s what little I can add on Michael Bhatia:

    He was a good friend.

  3. […] at Ghosts of Alexander Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Science – Week of Sept. 10Agenda 4/9/07Agenda […]

  4. […] Vinay Bhatia ‘99 – Brown University The Cost of Being There – Complex Terrain Laboratory Michael Bhatia Killed in Khost – Ghosts of Alexander Social Scientist Killed in Afghanistan – Kings of War ‘Human […]

  5. What a sad ending of such a young and intellegent, birght life.

    One more soul lost to the utter pointlessness of wars.

  6. Relatives and friends are invited to attend Michael Bhatia’s funeral Mass on Friday, May 16 at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Church, 151 Village St. in Medway, Massachusetts. Calling hours will be held on Thursday from 4- 8 p.m. at the Ginley-Crowley Funeral Home, 3 Barber St. in Medway, Massachusetts 02053. Burial will take place at the family plot at the Valley View Cemetery in Ticonderoga, NY.

    In lieu of flowers, donations in Michael’s memory may be made to the Michael V. Bhatia Memorial Fund c/o Rockland Trust Company, 288 Union St., Rockland, MA 02370.

    For the complete family placed obituary and guest book, go to:

    Please pass the word along.

  7. To all who read,

    I currently work at the hospital, and was present the day Mr. Bhatia came in to our hands. My heart goes out to all the friends and families. I wish I had come across this posting sooner, as I had a lot more to say that has since left my mind.

    Our team works hard to save every life that comes into our hands…and sometimes it’s beyond even the most skilled Doctor’s control. I’m glad to see so many people cared for this man.

    His name will be one among the many that stay with me until the day that I too must pass. We…never forget. I myself…will never forget. I hope this brings some kind of peace to someone’s heart.


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