On Wednesday, August 1, the Pell Center and Newport CIV jointly hosted an evening conversation with two prominent experts on the course of the war in Afghanistan. Dr. Bernard Finel of the National War College and Dr. Mark Jacobson of the German Marshall Fund of the United States engaged an audience of more than 100 people with assessments of where we stand after nearly 11 years of fighting.
America’s war in Afghanistan began weeks after the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. Within weeks, the Taliban had been routed. But for more than a decade since, American forces have been engaged in a difficult and violent process to create a state, defeat insurgents, and leave a stable Afghanistan behind.
President Barack Obama campaigned for president on the idea of leaving Iraq to focus on Afghanistan, and the signature of this refocusing was a surge of U.S. forces into Afghanistan with the purpose of creating the security conditions for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2014.But questions remain. Did the United States need a “surge” to achieve its policy goals in Afghanistan? What has been achieved in the last decade, plus, of fighting? How ready are Afghanistan’s forces to protect their own security? How can we assess U.S. policy in Afghanistan today?
One of the highlights of the event was the use of electronic surveys to poll audience members about specific policy choices in Afghanistan. Examples of the responses are posted here. The feedback was terrific. Audience members valued the opportunity to provide instant feedback and the speakers were intrigued by what the audience had to say.