Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type



International Affairs

First Advisor

Dr. Jessica Martin


The United States invaded Afghanistan over a decade ago but despite direct US military intervention Afghanistan remains fragile and unstable. The United States committed a strategic blunder by not pursuing nation building or creating enduring commitments to Afghanistan. While many today recognize the strategic errors of the Bush administration’s early Afghanistan policy, explanations of the reasons behind these errors remain inconclusive and incomplete. Based on analysis of primary documents and speeches, existing academic literature and journalist accounts, this paper argues that an opportunity was missed as a result of the Bush administration’s mentality towards Afghanistan. The belief that Afghanistan does not warrant sustained American attention led the Bush administration to neglect Afghanistan, just as the same mentality led previous American administrations to miss opportunities to stabilize Afghanistan in 1978 and 1992. The environment that developed as a result of these American departures was one of conflict, poverty and insecurity. Afghanistan became the very image of a failed state. In this chaotic environment the Taliban rose to power and Osama bin Laden planned terrorist attacks beyond the vision or attention of the West. A failure to nation build in Afghanistan enabled a brutal theocracy to develop and the most potent terrorist organization in recent history to operate in relative secrecy. Today, the United States’ failure to nation build risks leaving Afghanistan in a similar position.