2021 Halifax International Forum

Afghanistan: After the Fall

After nearly two decades of Western military presence in Afghanistan, a resurgence of regional instability and authoritarianism is occurring following the withdrawal of troops.

The inaugural plenary of HFX 2021 featured women in global positions of political and thought leadership. All shared their dismay at the pressing threat that the Taliban regime poses to women’s rights, mobility, social and economic freedoms, and overall regional security. Joined by Sabrina Saqeb, a former Afghan Member of Parliament, the plenary explored the fragility of institutions in a fledgling democracy.

Jeanne Shaheen and Janice Stein highlighted the difficult task of separating the humanitarian issue of growing food insecurity and lack of access to basic needs from efforts to thwart the Taliban from outside Afghanistan’s borders.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović compared her experiences in Bosnia & Herzegovina to her on-the-ground experiences in Afghanistan. Ultimately, she argued for the importance of military intervention to stabilize situations, allowing for long-term growth of democratic institutions.

The panelists emphasized the need to keep Afghanistan alive in the minds and the policies of governments across the world. They also highlighted many improvements to quality of life that depended on the stability of the past 20 years.  For many young Afghans, it is the only form of government they have known. They agreed on the importance of delivering aid to safeguard humanity and discussed the efficacy and responsibility of Western military forces in promoting (or preventing) a uniquely Afghan democracy.