The US invasion of Afghanistan, in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, was originally conceived in narrow strategic terms. However, what began as a counter-terrorism policy, based on eliminating and eradicating al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime, led to increasing calls for nation-building and the establishment of a democratic state. This ‘mission creep’ was increasingly associated with the Bush administration's Freedom Agenda, and consequently the democratisation of Afghanistan became a central US security objective. In spite of this, however, the Bush administration was never able to reconcile the tensions between countering terrorism and promoting democracy. This was exacerbated by policy decisions that generated greater insecurity in Afghanistan, which amounts to a disturbing picture of mishandling and negligence. As such, when the Obama administration inherited the Afghanistan campaign, the situation was worse than that which had been seen at the start of the war. This has resulted in the Obama administration abandoning the notion of democracy promotion in favour of transferring power as quickly as possible to an illegitimate Afghan government. This article details the ebbs and flows of US–Afghan policy as it relates to the Freedom Agenda, whilst highlighting the contradictions and problems that the US has faced over nearly a decade of war.
- Freedom; Afghanistan; George W. Bush; Obama; Presidency; Secuirty