Skip to main content

Afghanistan: What Went Wrong?

  • Roland Paris (a1)

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, which deposed the Taliban regime, was followed by a major international effort to stabilize that country. More than a decade later, this effort has yielded neither security nor political stability in Afghanistan. After having been ousted from power, the Taliban reestablished itself in the borderlands of Pakistan and began fighting an effective guerrilla war against international and Afghan government forces. Despite heavy losses in recent years, the insurgency shows no sign of giving up. Meanwhile, attempts to establish a credible and legitimate Afghan government have been similarly disappointing. President Hamid Karzai, once hailed as the country's democratic savior, came to be seen instead as the leader of one of the most corrupt regimes on the planet, a perception that has damaged his government's legitimacy both at home and abroad. Afghanistan's development and human rights indicators have improved, but it remains to be seen if these gains can be sustained as the international effort is scaled back. Finally, although the United States and its partners succeeded in weakening Al Qaeda in the region, both Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan appear to have become considerably less stable over the course of the mission, with untold consequences for the future.

Hide All
Autesserre Séverine. 2010. The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Boyle Michael J. 2012. “Progress and Pitfalls in the Study of Political Violence.” Terrorism and Political Violence 24(4): 527–43.
Breuning Marijke. 2003. “The Role of Analogies and Abstract Reasoning in Decision-Making: Evidence from the Debate over Truman's Proposal for Development Assistance.” International Studies Quarterly 47(2): 229–45.
Call Charles T. 2008. “Knowing Peace When You See It: Setting Standards for Peacebuilding Success.” Civil Wars 10(2): 173–94.
Call Charles T. 2012. Why Peace Fails: The Causes and Prevention of Civil War Recurrence. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Cordesman Anthony H. 2013. “Afghanistan: Meeting the Real World Challenges of Transition.” Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies (January 23) (accessed March 6, 2013).
Croft Stuart, and Moore Cerwyn. 2010. “The Evolution of Threat Narratives in the Age of Terror: Understanding Terrorist Threats in Britain.” International Affairs 86(4): 821–35.
Cubitt Christine. 2013. “Responsible Reconstruction after War: Meeting Local Needs for Building Peace.” Review of International Studies 39(1): 91112.
Downes Alexander B., and Monten Jonathan. N.d.Forced to Be Free? Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Rarely Leads to Democratization.” International Security. Forthcoming.
Doyle Michael W., and Sambanis Nicholas. 2006. Making War and Building Peace: United Nations Peace Operations. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Edelstein David. 2009. “Foreign Militaries, Sustainable Institutions and Postwar Statebuilding.” In The Dilemmas of Statebuilding: Confronting the Contradictions of Postwar Statebuilding, ed. Paris Roland and Sisk Timothy D.. London: Routledge, 81104.
Enterline Andrew, Stull Emily, and Magagnoli Joseph. 2012. “Reversal of Fortune? Strategy Change and Counterinsurgency Success by Foreign Powers in the Twentieth Century.” International Studies Perspectives, published online in advance of print, (accessed March 6, 2013).
Etzioni Amitai. 2012. “The Folly of Nation-Building.” The National Interest, July–August, 6068.
Flynn Michael T., Pottinger Matt, and Batchelor Paul D.. 2010. “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan.” Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security (January). (accessed March 6, 2013).
Gilligan Michael J., and Sergenti Ernest J.. 2008. “Do UN Interventions Cause Peace? Using Matching to Improve Causal Inference.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 3(2): 89122.
Hegre Håvard, Hultman Lisa, and Nygård Håvard. 2011. “Simulating the Effect of Peacekeeping Operations 2010–2035.” In Social Computing, Behavioral-Cultural Modeling and Prediction, ed. Salerno John, Yang Shanchieh Jay, Nau Dana, and Chai Sun-Ki. Berlin: Springer, 325–32.
Joshi Madhav. 2012. “UN Peacekeeping, Democratic Process, and the Durability of Peace after Civil Wars.” International Studies Perspectives, published online in advance of print, (accessed March 6, 2013).
Kalyvas Stathis N. 2012. “Micro-Level Studies of Violence in Civil War: Refining and Extending the Control-Collaboration Model.” Terrorism and Political Violence 24(4): 658–68.
Khong Yuen Foong. 1992. Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Krause Peter J. P. 2008. “The Last Good Chance: A Reassessment of U.S. Operations at Tora Bora.” Security Studies 17(4): 644–84.
Lyall Jason, and Wilson Isaiah. 2009. “Rage Against the Machines: Explaining Outcomes in Counterinsurgency Wars.” International Organization 63(1): 67106.
Mason T. David, Gurses Mehmet, Brandt Patrick T., and Quinn J. Michael. 2011. “When Civil Wars Recur: Conditions for Durable Peace after Civil Wars.” International Studies Perspectives 12(2): 171–89.
Neustadt Richard E., and May Ernest R.. 1986. Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers. New York: Free Press.
O'Hanlon Michael. 2002. “A Flawed Masterpiece.” Foreign Affairs 81(3): 4763.
Paris Roland. 2002. “Kosovo and the Metaphor War.” Political Science Quarterly 117(3): 423–50.
Paris Roland. 2010. “Saving Liberal Peacebuilding.” Review of International Studies 36(2): 337–65.
Peic Goran, and Reiter Dan. 2010. “Foreign-Imposed Regime Change, State Power and Civil War Onset, 1920–2004.” British Journal of Political Science 41(3): 453–75.
Quinn J. Michael, Mason T. David, and Gurses Mehmet. 2007. “Sustaining the Peace: Determinants of Civil War Recurrence.” International Interactions 33(2): 167–93.
Regan Patrick M. 2010. “Interventions into Civil Wars: A Retrospective Survey with Prospective Ideas.” Civil Wars 12(4): 456–76.
Rose Gideon. 1998. “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy.” World Politics 51(1): 144–72.
Sambanis Nicholas. 2008. “Short- and Long-Term Effects of United Nations Peace Operations.” World Bank Economic Review 22(1): 932.
Staniland Paul. 2012. “Organizing Insurgency: Networks, Resources, and Rebellion in South Asia.” International Security 37(1): 142–77.
Stein Janice G. 2012. “Foreign Policy Decision Making: Rational, Psychological, and Neurological Models.” In Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases, 2d ed., ed. Smith Steve, Hadfield Amelia, and Dunne Tim. New York: Oxford University Press, 130–46.
Stone Deborah A. 1989. “Causal Stories and the Formation of Policy Agendas.” Political Science Quarterly 104(2): 281300.
Vertzberger Yaacov Y. I. 1986. “Foreign Policy Decisionmakers as Practical-Intuitive Historians: Applied History and Its Shortcomings.” International Studies Quarterly 30(2): 223–47.
Zuercher Christoph. 2006. “Is More Better? Evaluating External-Led State Building After 1989.” CCDRL Working Paper no. 54. Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Stanford University.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 115 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 481 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.