The forever war
This thesis examines U.S. policy in Afghanistan through an analytical critique. The Afghan conflict has shaped modern U.S. foreign policy, and it is often at the center of heated public discourse. Popular perceptions of the conflict place the blame for instability squarely on Afghan shoulders, invoking tropes of Afghanistan’s “culture” of division and violence. This thesis will counter that narrative by providing an account of the Afghan conflict that emphasizes the role of international actors, specifically the role of the United States. In 2001, Afghanistan was effectively a failed state, and with the overthrow of the Taliban, the United States took on the inordinate responsibility of re-building this failed state after decades of war. This thesis asserts that the United States was unable to fulfill its mission objectives in Afghanistan because of several key factors, including a lack of long-term strategy, a security-based perspective of state-building, a failure to engage regional actors, and a fundamental misunderstanding of Afghanistan’s national identity and regional structures. This thesis asserts that American decision-making has shaped the current contours of the Afghan conflict, and it concludes by applying the outlined critiques of U.S. policy to the recently signed peace deal between the United States and the Taliban.