Africa University 25th Graduation Ceremony
US democratisation and military failure in Afghanstan Women gather to demand their rights under Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, last month /AP.

Munashe Mverechena and Christian Muzoriwa

As tempting as it may be to think that promoting democracy in occupied foreign countries is a morally justified and effective way to restore security and stability especially by a super power such as the United States the opposite on the contrary is true.

But political reform is most successful when it comes from local societies and political cultures but with political cultures such as those believed and demonstrated by the Taliban is that something attainable??? As international relations students the realism theory is what best explains such matters.

In Africa at large and not only in Afghanistan, international organisations such as the United Nations, alongside some non-profit and independent humanitarian agencies, have spent millions if not billions of dollars and countless hours of work trying to build or rather impose Western democracy, write constitutions, impose sanctions and create a bill of rights and create a new society politics.

The US military intervention in Afghanistan was initially justified by the need to dismantle the immediate and serious threats to national security by al-Qaeda and fears of weapons of mass destruction.

However, these short-term goals were quickly replaced by a long-term goal of preventing future threats from these countries, such as new extremist groups like the Taliban which kept growing and getting stronger with time.

This has led the United States, along with other nations, to occupy the country and attempt to provide the stability and security so that the people of Afghanistan set up their own government which was influenced by their form of ‘democratisation.’

The question that we keep asking ourselves is, “Was it really worth going to war for 20 years only to come back with wounded troops and leaving the state that you were trying to ‘fix’ in a worse state than you found it?” Worse in the sense that now they will need to start over from where they were 20 years ago and re-establish everything else that America had set.

Of course we cannot overlook the early successes of this war. New schools, hospitals, public facilities, a pro-western government — which was just disposed – where established. More importantly, women were allowed to join the workforce and even participate in the political arena, girls could go to school and even the emergence of independent media.

From the very start they knew that this war was never going to be won militarily and only a negotiated settlement could end the conflict. Even after successfully taking out Osama Bin Laden in 2011 America did not withdraw their forces and the Taliban only grew stronger, inflicting heavy casualties of the Afghan security forces.

Forcing states to embrace and adopt democratic practices can lead to political instability, conflict and a decline in citizens’ safety just as seen in the latest events post US military withdrawal.

The agreement signed in 2020 between the Trump administration and the Taliban included no mechanisms to enforce the Taliban commitments but, however, the exclusion of the Afghan government from the deal strained its relations with the United States.

In as much as most would like to believe that the United states failed immensely in Afghanistan, in August 2021 when Joe Biden announced the military withdrawal in Afghanistan the majority favoured this decision but was it the best decision for the Afghanistan citizens? Yes, the United States militarily lost this war but looking at the effects or rather the state in which the country is in after the Taliban took over morally their decision was not right.

The withdrawal of the United States, however, entailed significant costs for the Afghan citizens. The Taliban have shown their willingness to engage in a widespread violation of basic human rights, especially the human rights of women after they declared the creation of a new political order called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan is most likely to cause enormous suffering in the years to come that will be hard to eradicate.

However, a hypothetical decision to stay in Afghanistan would also have entailed considerable moral costs as well as monetary costs to the United States.

This decision would have continued to endanger the American soldiers. As international relations students, we sought to understand how ethical reasoning could be applied to such cases.

A number of philosophers are against the idea that one could make the best decision available and still be regarded as an immoral one. Immanuel Kant, believed that this view was fundamentally in conflict with the goals of morality, which is to tell people what to do.


Munashe Mverechena and Christian Muzoriwa are fourth year students at Africa University studying for the Bachelor of Science(Honours) in International Relations degree. They can be contacted on [email protected] and [email protected].

You Might Also Like


Take a survey

We value your opinion! Take a moment to complete our survey