The policies of the United States and its international partners in Afghanistan during the past eight years have proven wrong-headed and ineffective in delivering the promised peace, stability and democratic governance. This paper critically examines the underlying assumptions behind these failing policies and explores alternative approaches to rescue Afghanistan’s war-to-peace transition. Faulty assumptions on the part of key US government advisors, decision makers and many of their Afghan and Pakistani clients have contributed to the resurgence of the Taliban and a crisis of trust for the Karzai government and the internationally supported state-building process. The Obama administration must discard the misguided policies of the past and adopt a historically informed and culturally sensitive strategy aimed at fundamentally changing the governance system in Afghanistan, rather than simply reinforcing the current dysfunctional regime through increases in levels of military and economic assistance.

Part of Series

The Afghanistan Papers are essays authored by prominent academics, policy makers, practitioners and informed observers that seek to challenge existing ideas, contribute to ongoing debates and influence international policy on issues related to Afghanistan’s transition. A forward-looking series, the papers combine analysis of current problems and challenges with explorations of future issues and threats.
  • M. Nazif Shahrani, born, raised and partly educated in Afghanistan, is currently the chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and professor of anthropology, Central Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.