Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type



Political Science

Director of Thesis

Dr. Katherine Barbieri

First Reader

Dr. Cody Drolc

Second Reader

Dr. Cody Drolc


The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for twenty years. For eighteen of these years, it has spent precious time, money, and resources to modernize the Afghan Air Force (AAF). In my thesis, I conduct a cost-benefit analysis of this strategy to determine whether the net benefits and the overall outcome of the program justify the level of U.S. investment. I compare U.S. efforts with the AAF to those with the Iraqi Air Force while exploring the idea of path dependency. My analysis reveals that U.S. efforts to modernize the AAF have been a failure. The United States has expended considerable costs but has not achieved its goal. The AAF has made some progress, but it still is unable to function as a fully, self-sustaining air force capable of performing its mission for the Afghan military. My recommendation is that the United States acknowledge the path dependency regarding the AAF and end their support.

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© 2021, Alexander Smith