Afghanistan's Lost Decade

What Went Wrong Between the Two Bonn Conferences

Karzai at the international summit on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, 2011. (Courtesy Reuters)

This piece was published as part of The Future of Afghanistan and U.S. Foreign Policy, a collaboration between the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism and ForeignAffairs.com. 

In late 2001, flush with an unexpectedly easy victory over the Taliban, the United States arranged a conference in the German city of Bonn aimed at shaping postwar Afghanistan. The conference charged the United Nations, in the guise of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), with providing the country’s security. And in terms that now seem positively quaint, the conference’s Afghan and international participants looked forward to the creation of a “broad-based, gender-sensitive, multi-ethnic and fully representative government” in Kabul.

What a difference a decade makes. As international representatives gathered last week for a second conference in Bonn, ISAF troops were still caught between a grinding insurgency led

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