History Faculty & Guest Speaker Discuss the Fall of Afghanistan

The Department of History and Art History recently sponsored a live, online panel discussion to address the fall of Afghanistan. The panel was moderated by Zachary Schrag, Professor of History and Director of the MA Program in History. Professor Schrag’s wide-ranging interests in American history, technology, and contemporary public policy informed his deft handling of sensitive subject matter as well as a Q&A between panelists and the audience, who participated live and via questions in Zoom’s chat feature.

Panelists included Meredith Lair and Christopher Hamner, both Associate Professors in the Department of History & Art History. Lair and Hamner share teaching and research interests in American military history, and both have been monitoring the news from Afghanistan carefully. Professor Lair’s expertise on the Vietnam War proved useful for assessing the validity of frequent comparisons between the Fall of Saigon and what transpired in Kabul in the past few weeks. Professor Hamner offered insight into the combat motivation--and lack thereof--of Afghan National Army forces in the waning days of their resistance to the Taliban’s offensive. Both Lair and Hamner shared their thoughts on the difficulties of the Afghanistan War’s dispiriting conclusion for American veterans of the conflict.

The panel’s third member was COL (USA, Ret.) Scott Bertinetti, who is currently Senior Service College Fellowship Director at the US Department of Defense’s Defense Acquisition University and former Deputy Dean of the US Army War College. COL Bertinetti drew from the 2.5 years he served in Afghanistan, as well as his extensive graduate training in military history, to share the US Army’s planning and approach to the conflict when it began and as it developed. Many audience members expressed surprise that the Army leaned heavily on historical inquiry into counterinsurgency to prepare for war in Afghanistan.

The session was recorded and may be viewed in full here.