Afghanistan: Partial Success or Predictable Failure?

'The Afghanistan disaster'—title of an ARD documentary—not only requires politicians to work on the situation and to learn lessons so that it does not happen again. Peace and conflict research is also challenged. Under the title 'Peace- and Statebuilding in Afghanistan: Partial Success or Predictable Failure?', renowned experts on the country will discuss precisely this in an online event on October 19. The Centre is organizing this panel in cooperation with the Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies (BICC).  

The inglorious withdrawal of a NATO alliance from Afghanistan at the end of August 2021 challenges peace and conflict research at a point that touches the core of what was thought to have been developed in the past decades: a strategy that combines interventions in current conflicts - and their pacification - with the development of civil democratic structures. Peacekeeping operations, it was envisioned, would be linked to development incentives with the goal of stabilizing these societies in the long term. The presence of foreign military units was to yield a peace dividend over the years. Interventions were linked to humanitarian aid, education, and training. For example, the U.S. Army had agricultural development teams. operating in Afghanistan. This is rarely politically neutral, but there are sufficient examples to show that conditions on the ground and social participation of formerly marginalized groups have evolved in significant ways.

Academic research on peacebuilding, as one of the policy areas in the College's focus, has responded to these recent events. It was quick to point out that lessons needed to be learned from developments in Afghanistan, especially in light of the fact that what happened was not in the scenarios and was as unexpected to the relevant think tanks as it was to the Western public and, by all accounts, to the victorious Taliban themselves.

Immediately after the events, the Centre spoke with its co-director, Prof. Dr. Tobias Debiel, and former Fellow Prof. Dr. Herbert Wulf about the withdrawal from Afghanistan and its consequences for development cooperation (interview Andrew Costigan).

At the end of September, the editors of the Peace Report, a flagship publication of German-language peace and conflict research, issued a special statement: 'Nach dem Scheitern in Afghanistan: Lehren für die neue Bundesregierung' (After the Failure in Afghanistan: Lessons for the New German Government). The message is clear:

The new German government will have to come to terms with the West's resounding failure in the Hindu Kush.

But the research institutes also caution against drawing overly sweeping conclusions. The experience gained in Afghanistan can only be transferred to other missions to a limited extent. However, they strongly recommend independent and interdepartmental monitoring of such foreign missions and realistic definition of the - military - goals. One lesson from the Afghanistan mission, they say, was the realization,

that it was a mistake to focus primarily on expanding the military and police apparatus in the country while neglecting the civilian sector.

If what the special opinion states is correct, namely.

Long-standing experience shows that multilateral operations in post-conflict states can indeed promote peace there and contribute to the reconstruction of the country.

then there is a lot to learn in view of the often dismaying experiences in Afghanistan.

Tobias Debiel has now invited to a roundtable discussion that is committed to such a learning process.

Peace- and Statebuilding in Afghanistan: Partial Success or Predictable Failure?

On October 19, the 22nd Käte Hamburger Dialogue will feature a discussion with renowned experts on the country. Among them is Nargis Nehan, who has advised various Afghan governments in leading positions. Since 2017 in the rank of MInister (Minister of Mines, Petroleum and Industries), Nehan left her country in August 2021. Moderated by the publicist Andreas Zumach, Nehan will discuss with Thomas Ruttig, co-founder and co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), Patricia Gossman, Human Rights Watch, associate director for the Asia division, and Conrad Schetter (BICC). Welcome and introduction by the Co-Director of the Centre, Prof. Tobias Debiel.

>>> Event page, downloads and registration