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Lecture | LUCIS What's New?! series

"We Give Them Schools, Hospitals, Democracy. Why Don't They Love Us?" Outside Intervention in Afghanistan, 2001-2021

Date
Thursday 7 October 2021
Time
Explanation
Please register below
Series
What's New?! Fall Lecture Series 2021
Location
Lipsius
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Room
1.48
In December 1928 - January 2029 the British RAF evacuated some 600 foreigners from Kabul, in advance of the occupation of the city by a conservative movement that was about to remove the Afghan King, Amanullah, who wanted to drastically reform the country. Cartoon by Leonard Raven-Hill in "Punch, or The London Charivari," 6 March 1929.

For almost twenty years the Western powers have tried to build up a sustainable democratic state in Afghanistan. In August of this year that dream came to an end. Much has already been written about what went wrong, and no doubt much more will still be written long after we have gone ourselves. After all, the (in)famous 'Retreat from Kabul' by some 16,500 British Indian troops and followers in January 1842 is still the subject of an almost interminable stream of books and films.

But let us try and address the issue: what went wrong? In this ‘lecture’ I do not want to go over the same points that have been mentioned repetitively in the media; most of them focus on the failures of the West. Instead I would like to address, with the audience, the question in a more balanced way: why did the West fail, but also why did the Afghans fail to harness Western expertise and financial means to build up their country. Is there something inherently wrong in the Western relationship with countries such as Afghanistan? How we see them, and how they see us?

About Willem Vogelsang

Willem Vogelsang first went to Afghanistan in 1978 to join British excavations at Kandahar. In 1982 he worked as free-lance reporter among the Mujahedin fighting the communist regime in Kabul and their Soviet backers. After 9/11 he returned to Afghanistan as an officer in the Dutch armed forces and as cultural advisor for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Uruzgan (2008-2010). He has published widely on the subject.

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