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The Last Days of the Afghan Republic

A Doomed Evacuation Twenty Years in the Making
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It is difficult to overstate the chaos of August 2021 for many of those in Afghanistan, particularly those who had worked closely with the international community there. In a matter of days, U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan and an insurgency threw out a government the international community had spent 20 years and billions of dollars supporting. A government that claimed to stand for women’s rights, freedom of the press, education, and a litany of other ideals, was replaced by one that did not allow girls to attend secondary school. The world watched for two weeks as crowds rushed the airport, bodies fell from planes, a suicide bomber killed civilians and soldiers, and a baby was handed to a Marine over a barbed wire wall. The agony of lives so clearly destroyed, as people tried to flee their homeland with little to nothing, felt like images seen in the wake of natural disasters. But this was not a natural disaster. It was completely avoidable.

Part memoir and part history, The Last Daysof the Afghan Republic tells this story through the experiences of Arsalan, Fatima, Zeinab, and Najeeb: a scholar, a doctor, a student, and a translator. These young men and women had bought into the promise of the international intervention, that if they studied, worked hard, and believed in democracy and human rights, Afghanistan could become a new country. Their lives also tell the story of Afghanistan over the past thirty years. They recount, from the ground up, the political decisions on the American side that led to the “forever war,” the way that Afghan political partners squandered opportunities, and the ways in which the U.S. presence unevenly reshaped Afghan society.

Arsalan Noori (pseudonym) is a scholar and social science researcher who has worked with the international community for over 15 years.

Noah Coburn (Goddard College) is a socio-cultural anthropologist and a leading authority on the shifting political landscape in Afghanistan. He is the author of Losing Afghanistan: An Obituary for the Intervention.

Author website:




The Last Flight out of HKIA

A Failed Intervention?

A Land of Opportunity?

A Contracted War

A Divided Country

A Growing Distance

Young Politics

Special Immigrants

Willful Ignorance

The Second Coming of the Taliban

Insecurity and Failed Diplomacy

The Challenges of Resettlement

Lawyers, Travel Agents, and Traffickers

The Final Days of the American Occupation

Why wasn’t it fixed

Priority 2

The Collapse

After August 15


In Afghanistan it’s still who you know

Unaccompanied Minors

The Women who Remained Behind

Tea with the Taliban

Airplane Hangers

Making Compromises





Drawing on interviews with Afghans who thrived under the 20-year U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, Bennington College anthropologist Coburn and Noori (the pseudonym of a young Afghan social researcher) present a vivid portrait of life under the occupation, as well as the turmoil caused by the 2021 withdrawal. Though running was considered inappropriate for a woman, Zeinab was able to pursue her passion for triathlon competitions thanks to American NGOs like Free to Run, which also hired her to organize events. Najeeb, an employee of a local company hired by the U.S. Department of Defense, worked as a translator. When the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed on Aug. 15, 2021, Zeinab, Najeeb, and others who associated with “internationals”—Americans and other Westerners—feared for their safety and the loss of their freedoms. Many fled the country, attempting to emigrate with their families to the West, but ending up scattered around the world and separated from their loved ones. The authors provide both a sweeping history of the Afghan republic and a close-up look at the individuals who were served and then betrayed by it. This is an intimate and moving study of the broken lives left in the wake of U.S. military intervention.
— Publishers Weekly

An excellent book, very different from other "what went wrong books" in weaving in the perspectives of the Afghans affected – almost destroyed – by the U.S. abandonment of Afghanistan. The Last Days of the Afghan Republic is full of unique insights on the unexamined issues of working in an unfamiliar culture without deep understanding of the people. It is a “must read” for USAID and NGO professionals who will face these recurring problems.
— Ronald Neumann, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan

The Last Days of the Afghan Republic offers nuanced and human portraits of what it is like to be caught between uncaring and mismanaged geopolitical projects and everyday terrorism of the new-old Taliban regime.
— Joshua Reno, Binghamton University

Very little of the many things written on the country and the war have actually been produced by bona fide experts, and few of those experts have Dr. Coburns credentials. But more than that, this book is co-authored, and indeed co-created by an Afghan partner with many years of experience working with internationals. I would recommend this to all my colleagues – both Afghan specialist and others. The Last Days of the Afghan Republic brings a much needed and much neglected voice to the discussion of the war.
— Benjamin Hopkins, George Washington University

A compelling account of people in Afghanistan whose lives and futures suddenly became collateral damage when the United States hastily departed the country without any planning for the consequences that would entail.
— Thomas Barfield, Boston University

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