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Afghan Crossroads

Discussing the obstacles to a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan

| From BU Today | Video by Edward A. Brown, text by Jessica Ullian

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In the video, Nick Mills (left) and Andrew Bacevich discuss the obstacles to a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan. Above is an edited version of their conversation. The longer conversation is available here. Photograph by Flickr user Canada Good.

As President Obama considers sending as many as 40,000 more American troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, Boston University’s Nick Mills has some thoughts on when and where the United States could have been most effective: Kabul, circa 2001.

“We really lost the moment in 2001, when we went in there and booted the Taliban out, and they were for all intents and purposes defeated,” says Mills, a College of Communication associate professor of journalism and the author of Karzai: The Failing American Intervention and the Struggle for Afghanistan (2007). “But neither Hamid Karzai (Hon.’05), Afghanistan’s president, nor American policy took advantage of the moment, when 95 percent of the Afghan people were delighted the Taliban were gone and very enthusiastic and excited about the prospect of building a new Afghanistan. I think we really could have succeeded, and that moment was lost.”

Eight years later, the United States faces another fulcrum moment, as military leaders urge Obama to raise troop strength, while political leaders at home worry about a Vietnam-style quagmire. Andrew Bacevich, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of international relations, wrote in last week’s Washington Post that such an escalation would prolong the war for an additional 5 to 10 years and “break the bank and break the force.”

Coming from different personal and political perspectives to perhaps the crucial foreign policy question of Obama’s first year, Bacevich and Mills explore the cultural and political issues U.S. forces face in Afghanistan and offer the president some unsolicited advice.

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