Defining the Mission. The US Engagement in Afghanistan.
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Original versionOslo: PRIO (PRIO Papers)
The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was in a sense a curious accident of history. Enraged by the attacks on New York and Washington, the Bush Administration invaded a country where the US previously had demonstrated only limited and vicarious interests. Central Asia was of peripheral concern to the neo-conservatives who dominated the strategic thinking of the Bush Administration. Yet strategic considerations in a broader sense were evident. Responding to the 9/11 attacks by going to war in Afghanistan was in line with the Administration’s national security doctrine that celebrated Realpolitik and the importance of military power in the conduct of US foreign policy. The Administration’s decision to remove the Taliban regime, rather than take focused, punitive measures against Al Qaeda alone, in turn proved to be a critical juncture. The stage was now set for a wider war, which quickly developed from the step-wise interaction between hostile forces.