History 4920/6920

The US War in Afghanistan

Mon-Wed-Fri, 1:25-2:15, Hardin 101
Spring Term, 2022

Prof. Edwin E. Moise
Office: Hardin 102
Phone: 650-8845

Messages can be left in my mailbox in the department office (Hardin 124), or in the box on my office door.

Office Hours: I will try to be available to you, both face to face in my office and by Zoom, during the hours listed below. There may be times when that will not be possible. On the other hand, I will be available for much more of the week than my official office hours. E-mail me, or just check and see if my door is open.

    Monday                    2:30-3:20
    Tuesday    11:00-12:00,   2:00-3:15
    Wednesday                 2:30-3:20
    Thursday   (none officially scheduled but I will often be available)
    Friday     (none officially scheduled but I will often be available) 

Course Description

After a brief consideration of the historical background, the course will cover events in Afghanistan, and American perceptions of and policies toward Afghanistan, from the American invasion of 2001 to the withdrawal of 2021.

The prerequisite for HIST 4920 is sophomore standing. There are no prerequisites for HIST 6920.

Learning Environment

If the pandemic gets bad enough I may have to change my plans, but I plan to teach this as a traditional history class. Lectures, the quiz, and tests will take place in the classroom. Most discussion will be in the classroom, though some will take place through Canvas. You will turn in written assignments (other than the quiz and tests) through Canvas.

Course Objectives

To help students attain an understanding of the situation in Afghanistan, the ways Americans understood or failed to understand that situation, and the reasons for the outcome. To help students evaluate critically the problems of evaluating a situation about which muct of the available information is biased or otherwise unreliable.

Learning Outcomes

What goes into your grade

Research Paper: The most important single part of your grade will be the course paper. You can write it on whatever topic you please, within the limit of the subject matter of this course. The papers should be at least eight pages long typed double spaced for the actual text (not including title page, maps, illustrations, or Works Cited page). Longer papers are acceptable. If footnotes take up a lot of each page, make it at least nine pages.
Papers for students in HIST 6920 should be fiftten to twenty pages, or more.

For more detailed guidelines on the term paper, see Writing a Term Paper in Military History.

The paper is due Wednesday, April 27. I request that you turn it in electronically through Canvas, which records the date you submitted it. If Canvas says it was turned in on April 27 (in other words, if it got in before 11:59 pm), it will be considered on time. There will be a five point penalty if the paper is submitted on April 28 or 29. The penalty will be fifteen points if it is not in by midnight April 29.

You can have a pretty free choice of topics for this paper, within the limits of the subject matter of this course. You must talk with me, in person or by Zoom, and discuss the sources you will be using. It is not enough to say to me as we are walking out of the classroom one morning "Professor Moise, is it OK if I write about the Afghan presidential election of 2014?" You will need to talk things over with me for ten or fifteen minutes, not just a few seconds. After we have talked, I will give you a blank topic sheet, which you will then fill out and return to me. The sheet should describe your topic, with a list of the main sources you plan to use. There will be a five point penalty if you have not given this to me by March 18, and an additional five points if it is not in by April 1. If it still is not in by April 8, I will either give you yet another five-point penalty, or else simply hand you a sheet of paper telling you what topic you must write on, and what sources you must use.

If you give me a preliminary draft of your paper as an e-mail attachment by April 18 (preferably before that), I will look it over and give you suggestions about how you could improve it.

Tests: The midterm test (70 points) and the final exam (120 points) will be mostly essay.

Newspaper Research Exercise: 40 points.

Book Report: I would like each student to read a different book from the following list, first give me a report on it, and after I have given feedback on your report, present a report orally to the class.

Academic Integrity Policy

Academic integrity requires that we not try to pass off other people's work as our own. On the basis of experience in past years, I would say that if an academic dishonesty case were to occur in this course, it would probably be either: in past years, have been:

    Large portions of a term paper copied from a book or web site, without any indication that the material was copied. Typically this involves both large amounts of material quoted word-for-word, without quotation marks, and also a serious shortage of source notes pointing to the book from which the material came. Often there are misleading source notes claiming the material came from some source other than the one from which it was actually copied word-for-word. These false source notes are especially strong evidence that the copying was dishonesty and not just carelessness.

    Whole term paper obtained from some source (a commercial term paper service, or the Internet, or the collection of term papers that one of the fraternities used to have, and may still have).

    One student copies another student's paper on an assignment, maybe changing a few words and substituting synonyms, but leaving the two papers still so similar that it is obvious the resemblance could not be coincidence. I would be likely to bring charges both against the student who copied and the student who allowed his or her paper to be copied.

If a student copied a paper from someplace without citing that source, but rephrased it, substituting synonyms for enough words so that the copied paper was not identical, word for word, to the original, this would still be academic dishonesty, but would be more difficult for me to prove.

There are some ways in which it is all right for students to help each other. If two students want to study together getting ready for a test, that is perfectly OK. Only after I have handed out the questions does help on a test become improper. But if two people work together on a newspaper research exercise, and turn in papers that are very similar because each has been getting a lot of help from the other in writing it, both will be in deep trouble. If one of your fellow students asks to look at your paper, to get a better idea of how the assignment was to be done, please say no. They should come to me to ask for further explanations of the assignment, rather than looking at a completed paper to give them their clues. If two papers are so similar it is obvious the author of one must have seen the other, I will file charges.

In furtherance of its Academic Integrity policy, Clemson University has a license agreement with, a service that helps prevent plagiarism in student assignments. When you turn in your paper through Canvas, it will go to Turnitin, which compare it with a huge database that contains many documents available on the Internet and many papers turned in at other universities in past years. Turnitin does not make any determination of plagiarism. Rather, it informs me of any sections of your paper that match items in its database, and lets me make my own evaluation. If I see something that looks extremely suspicious, I will discuss this information with you before reaching any judgment or decision.

Do not turn in a paper in this course that you have also submitted in some other course, in this semester or a previous one, without consulting me first.

Attendance Policy

Starting January 24, all absences from class must be reported through Student Notification of Absence, on Canvas. You can get to that by clicking Help on the left side of the screen. You will be penalized two points for every absence after January 24 that has not been reported through that system. Absences up through January 21 will not be counted against you.

Assigned reading

Most of the reading will be from online sources, but there is one book I want you to buy:
    The American War in Afghanistan, by Carter Malkasian

Course Outline

January 12: Introduction to the Course

January 14: Background to Afghanistan
>>> Malkasian, pp. 12-33

January 17: MLK Birthday Holiday: NO CLASS

January 19: The Soviet War in Afghanistan
Read three sections of Moise, "Limited War":
    >>> "Afghanistan: The Soviet Union's Limited War"
    >>> "Comparing the Limits"
    >>> "Will to Win"

January 21: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan
The Geneva Agreements of April 14, 1988, as published by the United Nations. The most important parts are paragraphs 5 and 6 of the Agreement on Interrelationships (pages 11-12) and the statement by the United States (page 14). Read those carefully. You only need to skim the rest, but do skim it, and get an idea of the overall pattern, which in some ways was rather peculiar, of the agreements. Consider making a comment in the Discussion section of Canvas.
"Afghan Countdown", Washington Post, March 28, 1988, A14.
"Soviets Stall Afghanistan Withdrawal", Washington Post, November 5, 1988, A1.

January 24: The Taliban won control of most of Afghanistan, and allied with Al Qaeda
>>> Malkasian, pp. 33-52

January 26: The 9/11 attack on the United States provoked the American invasion of Afghanistan. In this class we will skim over these events rather briefly. We will come back and consider themselves in more detail when Mr. Byrd, Ms. Ball, and Mr. Gray are ready to present their book reports.
>>> Malkasian, pp. 53-72
    >>> James Dao and Thom Shanker, "Special Forces, On the Ground, Aid the Rebels", The New York Times, October 31, 2001. I
    >>> Jon Lee Anderson, "The Surrender: Double agents, defectors, disaffected Taliban, and a motley army battle for Kunduz." The New Yorker, December 10, 2001.

January 28: The Americans consolidated, but had very few boots on the ground.
>>> Malkasian, pp. 72-78
Edmund Degen and Mark Reardon, Modern War in an Ancient Land: The United States Army in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, Volume I, pp. 119-126/

Jan 31, Feb 2: The government of President Hamid Karzai.
>>> Malkasian, pp. 80-102
>>> Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Reconstructing the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan, pp. 11-15.

Feb 4, 7: Infighting in the government created an opportunity for the Taliban in Kandahar province
>>> Malkasian, pp. 103-127

Feb 9, 11: the Taliban offensive of 2006.
>>> Malkasian, pp. 129-156

Feb 14: Newspaper Research Exercise:

Feb 16, 18: Taliban Rule
>>> Malkasian, pp. 157-75

Feb 21, 23: War in the East
>>> Malkasian, pp. 177-98

Feb 25: Midterm Test.

Feb 28, March 2: As the Taliban advanced in the South, the US pulled forces out of the East.
>>> Malkasian, pp. 199-217

March 4, 7: The Obama Administration decides to surge in Afghanistan. Karzai was re-elected president in a rather fraudulent 2009 election.
>>> Malkasian, pp. 218-240

March 9, 11: The Surge in Helmand
>>> Malkasian, pp. 241-62

March 14, 16: The Surge in Kandahar
>>> Malkasian, pp. 273-98

March 18, 28: The End of the Surge
>>> Malkasian, pp. 299-314

March 30: Ghazni and the Andar Awakening: A Tribal uprising against the Taliban in 2012
>>> Malkasian, pp. 315-327

April 1, 4: Intervention and Identity: Taliban vs. Government security forces, and Karzai vs. the Americans
>>> Malkasian, pp. 328-49

April 6, 8: While the Americans were withdrawing from Afghanistan, the 2014 elections were marred by rampant fraud. Ghani (a Pashtun) and Abdullah (a Tajik) both claimed to have won. The US brokered a deal for them to share power.
>>> Malkasian, pp. 350-76

April 11, 13: The Taliban offensives of 2015 and 2016.
>>> Malkasian, pp. 377-403

April 15, 18: The Trump administration
>>> Malkasian, pp. 404-422

April 20, 22: Peace talks
>>> Malkasian, pp. 423-447

April 25, 27: The Biden Administration’s withdrawal.
Steve Coll and Adam Entous, "The Fall of the Islamic Republic, " New Yorker, 12/20/2021, Vol. 97 Issue 42, p32-45.

April 29: Summing up
>>> Malkasian, pp. 448-61

May 6: FINAL EXAM, 3:00 to 5:30 PM

Edwin Moïse's homepage

Revised March 5, 2022.