What does Afghanistan’s changing political landscape mean for America’s future involvement in the region? On Monday, just a few weeks before Afghanistan’s presidential election, AEI hosted a bipartisan panel discussion in which AEI’s own Fredrick W. Kagan stressed the need for a revision of US policy in the region, emphasizing that Republicans and Democrats must come together on such a divisive issue. The Center for American Progress’s Caroline Wadhams argued that April’s election has the potential to usher in a more solid political foundation in the country, but warned that it will present economic and military challenges.
Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation noted that it would be a grave mistake for the US, and more specifically for the West, to walk away from Afghanistan, especially given the continued presence of al Qaeda elements in the region. He likewise stressed the importance of promoting multiethnic coalitions in the country.
Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) underlined the need for strong presidential leadership on this issue, noting that Afghanistan has been absent from President Obama’s rhetoric, which has blinded the American public from realizing the severity of the issue and the potential disasters associated with leaving the country. Kagan concluded the discussion by posing a question to the audience: What is the right model of government for Afghanistan and how can we ensure its success?
As US forces prepare to leave Afghanistan after nearly 13 years of war, much of Washington has focused on President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a security agreement that would keep a small contingent of US troops in Afghanistan. In the midst of this political posturing, Afghanistan is readying itself for its April presidential election. This election promises a new page not only for the country but also for US-Afghan relations.
Just a few weeks before Afghanistan’s presidential election, AEI will host a discussion on Afghanistan’s changing political and security landscape, and what this means for future US involvement in the region.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.
Seth Jones, RAND Corporation
Adam Kinzinger, US House of Representatives (R-IL)
Caroline Wadhams, Center for American Progress
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
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Seth Jones is the associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at RAND Corporation and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Before joining RAND and SAIS, Jones worked as the representative of the commander of US Special Operations Command for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations. In this role, he worked on a wide range of issues including the December 2010 Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review for the US president. Jones has also served as a plans officer and adviser to the commanding general of US Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan and as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the Naval Postgraduate School. He has authored numerous articles and books including “Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qa’ida after 9/11” (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) and “In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan” (W.W. Norton & Company, 2010), which was awarded the 2010 Arthur Ross Book Award’s Silver Medal by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Frederick W. Kagan is the Christopher DeMuth Chair and director of the Critical Threats Project at AEI. In 2009, he served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment team, and he returned to Afghanistan in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to conduct research for Generals David Petraeus and John Allen. In July 2011, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen awarded him the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the chairman can present to civilians who do not work for the Department of Defense, for his volunteer service in Afghanistan. He is coauthor of the report “Defining Success in Afghanistan” (AEI and the Institute for the Study of War, 2010) and author of the series of reports “Choosing Victory” (AEI), which recommended and monitored the US military surge in Iraq. His most recent book is “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010, with Thomas Donnelly). Previously an associate professor of military history at West Point, Kagan is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard and has written for Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other periodicals.
Adam Kinzinger has served as the representative for the 16th Congressional District of Illinois since 2011. He is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and House Committee on Foreign Affairs and serves as deputy Republican whip. Kinzinger is one of the youngest members of Congress and was named one of Time magazine’s 40 Under 40 rising stars in American politics. Before running for Congress, Kinzinger served as a member of the US Air Force where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in November of 2003 and later awarded his pilot wings. He has served in the Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, and Air National Guard. While serving in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, he earned the Air Medal six times. Kinzinger holds the current rank of major, continues to serve as a pilot in the Air National Guard, and is a member of Congress.
Caroline Wadhams is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP) where she focuses on US national security, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and terrorism. Before joining CAP, she served as a legislative assistant on foreign policy issues for Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and worked at the Council on Foreign Relations as an assistant director in Washington, DC, and as a research associate on national security issues in New York. Wadhams has extensive overseas experience, having served as a US election observer in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections in September 2010 and in Pakistan’s parliamentary elections in February 2008. She is a 2005 Manfred Wörner Fellow with the German Marshall Fund and a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations. Wadhams has been a guest analyst with numerous international, national, and local news outlets.