Expert Panel Reflects on Afghanistan’s Future at William & Mary Law School Event

  • Difficult question :

    Professor Christie Warren introduces the expert panelists at the March event: they included (via video, left to right) General David H. Petraeus, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai and (seated, left to right) Alissa Johannsen Rubin , Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Dr. Sima. Samar.
    Photos by David F. Morrill

by W&M Law School Staff


April 1, 2022

Has the international community’s capricious attention shifted elsewhere since Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15, 2021? Have the American military, diplomatic and humanitarian campaigns for 20 years in Afghanistan been in vain? Has Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clouded the memory of America’s commitment to the Afghans who risked their lives to help our missions?

These are some of the tough questions posed by members of a standing audience and online viewers who attended a symposium on “The Future of Afghanistan” at William & Mary Law School on March 25.

{{youtube:large:center|jl9R3fKREn4, watch the symposium now.}}

Hosted by the Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (CLS/PCP) the Reves Center for International Studies and the National Center for State Courts, the event brought together a panel of prominent military and diplomatic leaders, a senior war correspondent and two former Afghan ministers who offered candid analyzes and reflections on their own decisions and actions. in what has been called by some a series of 20 year-long wars.

Alissa JohannsenRubinAlissa Johannsen-Rubin, former New Yorker The Times bureau chief in Kabul, Baghdad and Paris and Pulitzer Prize winner for her coverage of Afghanistan, provided context for the ensuing discussion by tracing the trajectory of Afghan history. She then asked her fellow panelists General David H. Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, Dr. Sima Samar and Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai a series of probing questions about their own decisions.

Petraeus, who commanded US forces in Afghanistan, called the end result tragic and heartbreaking, saying the situation didn’t have to end the way it did. Citing significant mistakes made along the way and an outcome that paved the way for a return to extremism, his list of mistakes included the lack of strategic patience, the lack of a cohesive overall plan, the failure to allocate sufficient resources and ignorance of local dynamics. and cultural. Repeatedly confirming US intent to leave Afghanistan only strengthened the Taliban and eliminated any political and military influence we might have had, he said.

Ambassador Ryan CrockerThe assessment of Crocker, who served six terms as US ambassador to the Middle East, was no more positive. Acknowledging that it is often difficult to reconcile ideals and interests, he said abandoning the US agency to the Taliban resulted in a betrayal of one’s own values. He concluded with a warning that Ukraine will prove to be a temporary distraction for the United States and that greater dangers are seeping into the Middle East as Pakistan, Iran, India and China assess their paths forward to fill the void left by the US withdrawal. .

Dr Sima SamarThe Afghan perspectives provided by Stanekzai, former head of the National Directorate of Security and former chief peace negotiator for the Islamic Republic, and Samar, former women’s affairs minister, mirrored those of Petraeus and Crocker. Stanekzai said inconsistencies in US strategies created space for corruption and organized crime and that the international community’s mission was flawed from the start when the Bonn talks failed to include all interested parties, including including the Taliban. Failure to include women in the peace process led to their subsequent exclusion from government, Samar said.

The symposium may have raised many more questions than it answered, said Professor Christie S. Warren, director of the Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and chair of the symposium.

“These are exactly the kinds of issues that should be addressed within academic institutions,” she said. “Difficult issues that are not addressed in the midst of conflict need to be discussed afterwards to avoid repeating mistakes that risk sending the message that the United States is an unreliable partner and a declining power.

From top left, clockwise: Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, General David H. Petraeus, Dr. Sima Samar, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Alissa Johannsen Rubin, Professor Christie Warren, Director, CLS/ PCP, and Mechelle A. King '21, Deputy Director, CLS/PCP.

Nancy I. Romero