The UCLA Center for Middle East Development hosted the event, "What the Taliban Victory Means for the Middle East," on September 30, 2021.
The Taliban victory in Afghanistan creates a variety of changes and challenges for the Middle East: the possible return or emergence of non-governmental rising dangers such as ISIS-K, the decreased importance of the US, the enhanced role of Russia and China, and/or perhaps the rise of Iran and Turkey. On the other hand, the US being out of Afghanistan may permit it greater ability to defend and protect its local associates and allies. This discussion addresses these alternative directions and attempts to provide some initial answers, directions, and resolutions. Brief presentations were followed by audience Q&A.
PANELIST— Robin Wright is a senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center. She has reported from more than 140 countries for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, TIME, The New York Times Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Wright has also been a fellow at the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Yale, Duke, Stanford, Dartmouth, and the University of California. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the UN Correspondents Association Gold Medal for international affairs, the National Magazine Award for Iran reportage, and the Overseas Press Club Award for her coverage of African wars. Wright has authored eight books.
PANELIST— Kirsten Fontenrose is the director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, a bipartisan think-tank headquartered in Washington, DC. Ms. Fontenrose has 20 years of experience working with the national security apparatuses of nations in the Middle East and Africa from positions within the US Department of Defense, Department of State, White House, private industry, and non-profit sector. She most recently served as the Senior Director for Gulf Affairs at the US National Security Council, leading the development of US policy toward nations of the GCC, Yemen, Egypt, and Jordan. Ms. Fontenrose holds a BA in Middle Eastern studies from the College of William and Mary, an MA in Middle Eastern studies from Indiana University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
PANELIST— Jennifer Cafarella is the inaugural national security fellow at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a position created to sponsor rising national security leaders. Ms. Cafarella’s work focuses on US defense strategy, including how the US must adapt to current and future threats. She is an established expert on Syria, the Middle East, and jihadism. Ms. Cafarella regularly briefs senior decision makers, as well as US and allied military units. Ms. Cafarella previously served as ISW’s research director from 2019 until 2020, when she was responsible for setting the organization’s research priorities. She is a graduate of ISW’s Hertog War Studies Program and was the Institute’s first Evans Hanson fellow, which sponsors outstanding alumni of the War Studies Program.
MODERATOR— Dr. Steven Spiegel is the Director of the UCLA Center for Middle East Development. He is also a research professor of political science, focusing on international relations and American foreign policy in the Middle East. He has written over 100 books, articles, and papers. He is the author of “The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America’s Middle East Policy from Truman to Reagan,” and “World Politics in a New Era,” as well as one of the authors of "The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989-2011."
Picture Descriptions (Left to right): C-17 carrying passengers out of Afghanistan (Credit: Air Mobility Command Public Affairs, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons); Morning in Kabul (Credit: Mohammad Rahmani, via Unsplash); Map of the Middle East (Credit: Getty Images Pro)