22 July 2015
A key lesson from the intervention in Afghanistan is that civilian perspectives must carry more weight in setting realistic timelines, priorities and allocation of resources for durable state-strengthening.


Michael Keating
Former Associate Director, Research Partnerships

Barbara J. Stapleton, Independent Consultant


Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images.
Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images.


Key findings

  • The Afghan state is more dependent than ever upon foreign funding. Economic contraction, a fiscal deficit, a reduction in aid and increasing violence are compromising efforts to boost economic growth and trade.
  • The Afghan government lacked the political space and capacity to drive its own development, let alone security, agenda. Success stories showed the value of partnering with ministries where competent Afghan officials were in place.
  • An imbalance in resourcing military and civilian sectors characterized the 2001–14 intervention. Giving more weight to civilian perspectives on timelines and priorities for state-strengthening would help efforts to achieve stability.
  • The importance of a comprehensive approach was recognized, but one did not materialize. The US military strived for unity of command; the civilian sector remained fragmented. Required are more integrated approaches to the planning and conduct of state-building operations, facilitated by intra-agency structures.