FYI Afghanistan

Here are a few sources from recent days with hopefully interesting ideas about the current situation in Afghanistan.

  1. A Zoom interview with Benon Sevan, a longtime senior official with the UN and former personal representative of the secretary-general from 1988 to 1991. Mr. Sevan comments on the futility of nation building in Afghanistan, the American misadventure, and the prospects for international cooperation in working with the Taliban, among other issues. Access it here:

You can listen to the audio version at:

2. Two articles from The Asia-Pacific Journal: my “The Afghanistan Debacle”:, and Ben Kiernan’s “Backdrop to the Fall of Kabul: A Comparative Reflection,”

3. My blog, “The Afghanistan Debacle”:, available on PodServe:



  1. Thanks, Mel,

    Valuable sources! As a 65-year Burma- hand I’m drawn to comparisons with Afghanistan & Syria. You may disagree! “Failed state” was not a popular concept among political scientists when I was a graduate student at SAIS & then UCBerkeley six decades ago. Nowadays it is conventional in academic literature. It pains me greatly that Burma qualifies for that depreciative concept. My single success as policy advisor to successor US administrations was to keep CIA & troop deployments out of Burma, including the Shan States during General Li Mi’s tenure therein. My advice was sought & heeded.🙏

    Our counterpart academics failed in Afghanistan! The current whirlwind is a direct consequence. I anticipate ongoing bloodshed after our troops fly out as lesser Islamicists challenge Taliban mullahs. You likely agree.

    I feel no sense of tragedy as the American military venture fades into history. Rather, I feel deep appreciation for Biden & his foreign affairs team. He will suffer short-run political losses but if he can outride this storm I expect serious gains in his authority as a globalist dealing with war, climate change & sustainable health.

    Burma will enjoy no such surcease! I see only a federation or confederation if it is to survive at all. Greed for treasure & power dominates Tatmadaw leadership now, a tragedy as it briefly hosted true patriots among its officer Corps in the 1950s. Mansions & money have blinded them increasingly since Ne Win’s 1962 coup. Their Thai counterparts seem equally blinded in the 21st Century.

    Be well,


    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Thanks, John, for these valuable thoughts. Your advice on Burma years ago was on target; too bad it hasn’t been heeded much since. And I certainly agree on Biden: ride out the storm. But also: Don’t turn your back on the Afghan people, who deserve so much better.

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