Afghanistan In Crisis: Where, And When, Did the West Go Wrong?     Thursday, 2 September 2021   1:30-3:00 p.m.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2021, 1:30 - 3:00 p.m EST

As the twentieth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11 nears, some argue that we have come full circle in Afghanistan. The Taliban are back in power, a strand of ISIS is using the country as a base to attack Westerners, and an American president is vowing to bring the terrorists to justice. In this light, it is hard to see the West's nearly two-decade effort to try to build a stable, democratic Afghan state as anything but a tragic failure. What, if anything, was accomplished? What does this all mean for Western institutions such as NATO? And above all, where does this leave Afghans themselves?

This online discussion was moderated by Max Bell School Professor Andrew Potter, with concluding reflections from Professor Jennifer Welsh.


Zahra Nader

Zahra Nader

Afghan journalist, a contributor to the Fuller Project, and doctoral scholar, York University


Zahra Nader is a Ph.D. student in Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies at York University. She has worked as a journalist for almost seven years in Kabul, working for local and international media, including The New York Times. She is currently working as an editor at Rukhshana Media, an independent Afghan news organization, and also contributes to Fuller Project, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to women’s stories. 



Grant Kippen

Grant Kippen

Former Chief Electoral Officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan


Grant Kippen has spent the past 35 years involved in electoral politics and democracy strengthening activities internationally as well as in Canada. He recently completed three and one-half years as Chief Electoral Advisor for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) based in Kabul.

Prior to this position he was working in Mogadishu, Somalia as Senior Electoral Management Advisor to the National Independent Electoral Commission, and from November 2015 to June 2016 as Senior Elections Advisor to the British Embassy in Skopje, North Macedonia. From December 2011 to June 2015 he was the Chief of Party for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) based in Sana’a, Yemen. Internationally, Grant has worked in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan (in support of the 2005 Iraq elections), Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Libya, Moldova, Nepal, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Timor Leste, Ukraine and Yemen. During this time he has been employed by the United Nations, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Creative Associates International, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Elections Canada and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. He was the Chairman of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) in Afghanistan for the 2009 Presidential and Provincial Council elections and the 2005 Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council elections, as well as Country Director for NDI in Afghanistan from 2003-2004.

In Canada, Mr. Kippen worked as an Officer within the Prime Minister’s Office (Rt. Hon. P.E. Trudeau), as an Advisor to a federal Cabinet Minister, a Special Assistant to a Member of Parliament, as well as Director of Organization for the Liberal Party of Canada (Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien). He has written a number of published articles on such issues as e-democracy, electoral dispute resolution, electoral financing within post-conflict countries, the impact of information technology on electoral campaigns as well as on elections and democracy in Afghanistan. Mr. Kippen has a B.A. from The University of Western Ontario and an M.B.A. from the University of Ottawa. 



Ben Rowswell

Ben Rowswell

President and Research Director of the Canadian International Council; former head of the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar


Ben Rowswell has been President and Research Director of the Canadian International Council since November 2018. 

Prior to the CIC, Ben served as Canada’s Ambassador to Venezuela from 2014 to 2017. This capped a 25 year career as a professional diplomat including assignments in Canada’s embassies to Egypt, to the United States, and in Canada’s Permanent Mission to the UN. He served Canada’s first diplomatic envoy to Baghdad, Iraq, after the fall of Saddam Hussein from 2003 to 2005, as Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan and as head of the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar between 2008 and 2010. 

As a practitioner of international relations, Ben’s thematic interest has been in human rights and democracy. He founded the Democracy Unit at Global Affairs Canada, and worked closely with human rights activists in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Ambassador to Venezuela, Ben was an outspoken advocate of the restoration of the popular sovereignty of Venezuelans after the suspension of constitutional order in early 2017. 

These experiences abroad awakened an interest in the role of citizens in our own democracy. In Ottawa, Ben supported the Cabinet process as a member of the Privy Council Office during the tenures of Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper, experiences that exposed him to the far-reaching impact that public opinion has on decision-making at the highest levels of government. 

Ben brings that passion for the role of individual citizens to the CIC, a platform for everyday Canadians to participate in the national conversation about our nation’s role in the world. 



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