What went wrong in Afghanistan? Join two researchers for a discussion on Oct. 5

To its people, Afghanistan is home. To the militaristic insurgent groups of the region, it’s a path to power. To the U.S. and its allies, it’s the site of a 20-year military presence that ended on Aug. 31, leaving control of the country to the Taliban.

Colorado State University’s Office of International Programs is bringing together two experts on Tuesday, Oct. 5, for a virtual discussion about what a changing Afghanistan means for its people and the West, as well as how the withdrawal went wrong.

The discussion will feature:

  Nader Hashemi, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies and an associate professor at the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Studies.

  Emran Qureshi, a Wertheim Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program and co-editor of the book The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy.

Hashemi said it’s likely that tensions will rise and dialogue will disintegrate between a Taliban-led Afghanistan and the West.

“Stories of persecution and human rights violations will offend the sensibilities and values of most Westerners, and questions will continue to be raised about the wisdom of withdrawing Western troops from Afghanistan in 2021 when alternative options were available,” Hashemi said.

Hashemi added another complicating factor is the possibility of an attack by Al Qaeda or the Islamic State in a major Western city, which he said would lead to military action and cause even more strain if it happened.

Afghanistan: What went wrong?

A panel discussion between Professor Nader Hashemi and author Emran Quereshi

When: Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 3 p.m.

Register: The discussion is free, but registration is required to attend: https://col.st/30AGP

One of the most frequently expressed concerns among people with experience in the region is that, under Taliban rule, Afghanistan could once again harbor terrorist organizations as it did during its first regime in the 1990s and early 2000s.

If the U.S. should return with military forces in the Middle East, however, Hashemi said that it will have a harder time doing so, particularly due to a lack of support at home.

“Within the U.S., we are a deeply polarized country with lots of domestic problems and challenges that are both political and economic,” Hashemi said. “Most Americans want to spend U.S. resources in America fixing our myriad of problems rather than pursuing forever wars that cost a lot of money and soldiers without any tangible benefit to our national security.”

Protecting human rights in Afghanistan, especially those of women, is a high priority among Western countries following the U.S. and NATO withdrawal, but Hashemi said there is little chance for other countries to influence the Taliban’s treatment of Afghans without a physical presence in the region.

Without that, he said, the greatest remaining leverage comes from the Taliban’s desire to be recognized by the West as a legitimate government and from its desire to receive economic aid. According to Hashemi, these might be able to be used as tools to keep the Taliban from repeating its unchecked abuses of the past. 

“In this sense, a future relationship with the Taliban can be conditioned based on human rights performance (especially for women) and not allowing Al Qaeda/the Islamic State to have a safe haven on Afghan territory,” Hashemi said.