What's Really Happening in Afghanistan?




Who’s to blame for the Afghanistan chaos?

International conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001, triggered by the September 11 attacks and consisted of three phases.


The first phase - toppling the Taliban was brief, lasting just two months.

The second phase, from 2002 until 2008, was marked by a U.S. strategy of defeating the Taliban militarily and rebuilding core institutions of the Afghan state.

The third phase, a turn to classic pacification doctrine, began in 2008 and accelerated with U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2009 decision to temporarily increase the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan.


This larger force was used to implement a strategy of protecting the population from Taliban attacks and supporting efforts to reintegrate insurgents into Afghan society. The strategy came coupled with a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan; beginning in 2011, security responsibilities would be gradually handed over to the Afghan military and police. The new approach largely failed to achieve its aims. Insurgent attacks and civilian casualties remained stubbornly high, while many of the Afghan military and police units taking over security duties appeared to be ill-prepared to hold off the Taliban. By the time the U.S. and NATO combat mission formally ended in December 2014, the 13-year Afghanistan War had become the longest war ever fought by the United States.


The U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan on December 28, 2014, but retained a reduced force of ~13,000 troops to support and train Afghan troops until a reduction was implemented in 2020.


A full withdrawal of U.S. troops, initiated in 2020 and continued into 2021, anticipated the end of U.S. deployment to Afghanistan, but the resurgence of the Taliban during the withdrawal returned the country back to where it started when the U.S. forces arrived 20 years earlier.

In this panel, former ABC Radio National host John Cleary will moderate a panel with Prof Amin Saikal, Adj Prof of Social Sciences at University of WA and an expert on Middle East studies, and Prof William Maley, Professor of Diplomacy at the ANU and an expert in Afghan politics, to explore the question “What’s really happening in Afghanistan?” Prof William Maley is the author of the following 5 books on Afghanistan - Rescuing Afghanistan (2006), What is a Refugee? (2016), Transition in Afghanistan: Hope, Despair and the Limits of Statebuilding (2018), The Afghanistan Wars (2021), and Diplomacy, Communication, and Peace: Selected Essays (2021).


Date: Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Time: 7.00 - 8.-00 pm AEST

Where: LIVE Online via YouTube