Eighteen years into America's war in Afghanistan, it is important to remember that America’s goals were lofty to begin with: destroy al Qaeda, remove the Taliban from power, remake the country into a democracy. While the United States succeeded in ousting the Taliban and driving al Qaeda from the country, its efforts to fashion a self-standing Afghan political order and to prevent the resurgence of militancy and terrorism never reached a satisfying outcome. How, why, and in what ways did the Western project in Afghanistan fail? Is a durable solution to the war within reach? If so, what does the US approach to disengagement from Afghanistan imply for American strategy and force posture in the emerging great power competitions outside the region? If not, what are the options for addressing the West’s core interests in Afghanistan and the region?

To better understand what these implications might be, and to discuss what the evolving policy process inside the Trump administration has been, a special conversation was held with Dr Colin Jackson, Chairman of the Strategic and Operational Research Department at the US Naval War College, and until recently the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia in the US Department of Defense. United States Studies Centre Senior Fellow Dr Charles Edel moderated the discussion.