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HomeGeopolitical CompassWest & Centeral AsiaHow the Good War Went Bad: America’s Slow-Motion Failure in Afghanistan

How the Good War Went Bad: America’s Slow-Motion Failure in Afghanistan

Author: Carter Malkasian

Affiliation: Former Senior Adviser to U.S. General Joseph Dunford in Afghanistan, and former  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs 

Date/Place: April 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Magazine Article

Number of Pages: 14


Keywords: U.S. Failure, Military Intervention, Afghanistan, Taliban, Pakistan.


The author of War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier, Carter Malkasian is the former Senior Adviser to U.S. General Joseph Dunford, and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this short but first-hand insightful essay, Malkasian gives a brief explanation of the U.S.’ failure in Afghanistan from October 7, 2001, to 2019. He supports his argument by a series published in The Washington Post in late 2019 titled “The Afghanistan Papers,” and he reports casualties as exceeding 2,300 deaths and 20,000 wounded U.S. military personnel; the expenditure of this unwinnable war has been nearly $1 trillion. Malkasian highlights two main factors of failure among others, the crucial factor being the epidemic corruption of the Afghan government and the Pakistan strategy in Afghanistan. Despite these factors, he argues that failure could have been avoided if U.S. policymakers utilized the opportunities between 2001 to 2005, such as the inclusion of the Taliban in the political settlement and building a capable Afghan army. He concludes by noting that “If U.S. leaders had thought more about the different ways that things could play out, the United States and Afghanistan might have experienced a less costly, less violent war, or even found peace.” Overall, Pakistan’s role for the Taliban resurgence has been explicitly outlined.

By: Abdullah Jurat, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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