Applying Soft Power in the Afghan War

Pacific Council on International Policy, 2018

5 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2020

See all articles by Mehdi J. Hakimi

Mehdi J. Hakimi

Harvard University - Harvard Law School; Stanford Law School

Date Written: April 27, 2018


The U.S. intervention in Afghanistan has long emphasized hard power measures such as military action. Given the realities on the ground, however, it is crucial not to overlook strategic soft power measures to counter the underlying causes and ideologies that give rise to extremism in the first place. The proliferation of madrassas and rising radicalization across Afghanistan, recruitment of children by extremist groups, regional actors’ involvement in the battle for hearts and minds, and international law considerations necessitate a closer examination of appropriate non-military interventions.

The battle for hearts and minds is crucial in ensuring that the overall strategy in the Afghan war is successful. This entails adopting a comprehensive and nuanced approach that treats non-military interventions, particularly measures countering the rising radicalization across Afghanistan, as core elements of the policy. In doing so, the strategy must support Afghanistan’s hard-fought (and relative) progress since 2001 including access to education, girls and women’s empowerment, and freedom of press. As America recalibrates tactics in the Afghan war, effective soft-power initiatives must not be relegated to an afterthought.

Keywords: Afghanistan, Afghan War, United States, U.S. National Security, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, September 11 Attacks, Hard Power, Soft Power, Radicalization, Extremism, Terrorism, Peace, Democracy, Rule of Law

Suggested Citation

Hakimi, Mehdi J., Applying Soft Power in the Afghan War (April 27, 2018). Pacific Council on International Policy, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Mehdi J. Hakimi (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Law School

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Stanford Law School

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