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OCMO 2165 - Lessons (not) Learnt in Afghanistan

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


None, although some knowledge of international interventions in the Middle East, or of Afghanistan, is useful.

Course Description

In this course we dissect the international intervention in Afghanistan, from its beginning in 2001 to today, and extract lessons that can be applied to other international interventions in fragile or failed states. As the first episode in the War on Terror, and the largest state-building and reconstruction exercise sanctioned by the international community in recent human history, 'Afghanistan' has helped shape the geopolitics of the 21st century. The way the West reacted to subsequent crises in the Arab World has been, and will be, largely determined by the experience gained in Afghanistan. The perspective used in this analysis is that from the ground, through Afghan eyes, taking into account socio-cultural evolution and its interplay with the international intervention. Towards the end of the course the international interventions in Iraq and Syria, and the situation in other countries of the Middle East will also be discussed. The objective of this course is to make students analyze critically how and why Western interventions in the Islamic world fail so dismally, and to suggest new approaches, rooted in cultural understanding and a more egalitarian approach.


DAM, Bette (Journalist/Author)

Pedagogical format

Lectures, guest lectures and presentations, class discussions.

Course validation

The students will be noted as follows: participation in discussions in the class informed by required and recommended reading (25%); an individual presentation about a book on the recommended reading list (25%); an end paper (50%) of about 4000 words about an international intervention, not necessarily in Afghanistan.


Two hours of reading for each seminar, four to six hours to read and prepare a presentation on a book, and an end paper of approximately 10-12 pages (about 4,000 words).

Required reading

  • George Bush Declaration of War in 2001
  • David Edwards, Before Taliban, Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad
  • Bette Dam, A Man and A Motorcycle, How Hamid Karzai Came to Power
  • Strick van Linschoten, Kuehn, An Enemy We Created, The Myth of Taliban-AL Qaida merger in Afghanistan
  • Film: Restreppo

Additional required reading

  • Mike Martin, An Intimate War
  • Osama Ben Laden: The Solution, Sept 2007