In August 2021, the shock of the U.S. debacle in Afghanistan sparked fierce debates and reflections on the issue of U.S. involvement in stabilization interventions. In the face of blatant and costly failures in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, public appetite for global engagement has waned. In consultation with the Department of State: Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, this Capstone project aims to propose suggestions for how the United States government can critically rethink its approach to stabilization interventions.  

Drawing on the lessons learned in past stabilization missions—from large-scale operations in Afghanistan to more targeted ones in the Sahel, or UN missions in the DR— this research project explores strengths and weaknesses in different approaches taken. Based on a comprehensive literature review, interviews with relevant stakeholders, a stakeholder analysis, and an expert review of our initial proposal, this report determined five of the most pertinent dilemmas that stabilization interveners are likely to face.  

They are 1. Conflicting strategic intents; 2. The Failure to Address Root Causes of Conflict; 3. Working with Proscribed Armed Groups; 4. The Pervasiveness of Militarism and Colonialism in Africa and 5. The lack of interest in prevention.  

The collective series of recommendations follows two main imperatives; 1. Establish the primacy of political approaches and solutions in stabilization interventions so that the military aspects are subordinate to them instead of vice-versa; 2. The U.S. should shift towards, and be held accountable to, a demand-driven approach to stabilization which integrates coalition and local partners in the design and conception of the mission, not only in the implementation phase.