Intervention in Internal Conflict: Insights for Afghanistan

Author data: 
William J. Lahneman
Publication Date: 
December 2001
Description: 
Summary of Proceedings
Project: 
National Intelligence Council Project
File Name: 
Document Type: 
Conference Reports, Presentations and Other Documents

This conference was the capstone event for an examination into the phenomenon of internal conflict, the reasons for third party intervention in internal conflict, and the role of the United States in such interventions. Three principal questions guided this process:

1. What were the prospects regarding the nature and number of future internal conflicts?
2. What were the challenges posed by internal conflicts and what could be learned by studying responses to internal conflict over the past decade?
3. Under what circumstances was intervention in internal conflict managed more or less successfully?

This last inquiry raised another series of questions. How does one define success? Is "success" an ability to stop fighting and achieve temporary stability, or must it include the achievement of long-term stability through "nation-building?" In narrowly defined national security terms, why should the United States ever consider "humanitarian" intervention? The original purpose of the conference was to provide a forum for the presentation of several case studies of internal conflict during the last decade. However, the events of last September 11th provided a real world case in which the answers to many of these questions were urgently needed to inform important US foreign policy decisions. As a result, the theme of the conference was changed. Now, instead of summarizing lessons learned about internal conflict and intervention, the conference sought to interpret how these lessons learned could help guide US policies toward Afghanistan following the collapse of the Taliban regime, which was perceived to be imminent. To assist in this effort, presentations by several Afghanistan area specialists were added to the event program. In addition to providing specific information concerning how Afghan culture, politics, and other factors might affect US conduct in post-Taliban Afghanistan, these scholars offered constructive criticism of the general lessons learned proposed by the case study authors.

The seven case studies on intervention in internal conflict are:
1. Somalia - David Laitin, Stanford University
2. Bosnia - Steven Burg, Brandeis University
3. Rwanda - Gilbert Khadiagala, Johns Hopkins SAIS
4. East Timor - Eric Schwartz, Wilson Center
5. Sierra Leone - I William Zartman and Kwaku Nuamah, Johns Hopkins SAIS
6. Cambodia � David Chandler
7. Haiti - Chetan Kumar, United Nations

They are available on CISSM's and the NIC's websites. Only pertinent aspects are reproduced in these proceedings, which emphasize potential lessons learned from each study, similarities running through the different studies, and lessons considered applicable to Afghanistan.

Bill Lahneman is the Associate Director for Programs at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland.