Knowledge, power and the failure of US peacemaking in Afghanistan

Knowledge, power and the failure of US peacemaking in Afghanistan 2018–21

Author: Marika Theros

The power of narrative and norm entrepreneurship in shaping policy and practice is rarely investigated in the context of international peacemaking and mediation. Applying constructivist analyses and drawing on empirical evidence from US diplomacy in Afghanistan between 2018 and 2021, this article demonstrates how emergent western policy discourses, knowledge production, and the mediator’s ideas and practices interacted in a dynamic context to induce a significant shift in US policy, legitimate it, and fundamentally reshape the conflict and peacemaking landscape.

Approaching the reality of conflict and peacemaking as socially constructed and drawing on documentary analysis, in-depth interviews and insights from first-hand participation in the Afghan ‘peace’ process, I argue that these new narratives influenced and sanctioned a coercive US peacemaking approach that reshaped the interests and behaviors of Afghan stakeholders, with violent consequences. The article highlights the potential of constructivist analyses of peacemaking to provide a more holistic, multi-dimensional understanding of these processes and their outcomes.

This article was published in International Affairs.

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