After 9/11, the US administration identified the ‘failed’ state of Afghanistan as a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists, responsible for the World Trade Centre attacks. Subsequently, it launched Operation Enduring Freedom and with it, the seemingly indefinite ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWOT). The military intervention in Afghanistan was unprecedented, in that, it was a war by a state, directed primarily against a non-state actor, operating within the territorial bounds of and supported by a sovereign state. America’s stated war objectives were capturing Osama bin Laden, destroying al-Qaeda and other terrorist camps operating on Afghan territory, removing the Taliban regime which was supporting the al-Qaeda, and bringing in its place a more democratic government. To make its intervention more acceptable globally, the reasons for the invasion were not restricted to ‘combating terrorism’ alone; but also held out the promise of liberating a shackled Afghan population from the oppressive Taliban regime through the promotion of democracy.
This essay argues that military interventions in Afghanistan (both by the Soviets in 1979 and the more recent American intervention in 2001), have left the state far more weakened and conflict-ridden than prior to the interventions. It presents an analysis of the reasons why the present American intervention has gone awry. This is followed by an assessment of the efficacy of military intervention in the case of failed states and whether it is a solution or a contributing factor to a state’s weakening and subsequent ‘failure’. The essay concludes with an assessment of the challenges the new US administration faces which it must address to be able to restore to Afghanistan some semblance of stability