HFX Conversations is HFX’s online publication. HFX Conversations is dedicated to bringing ideas and opinions from democratic leaders to the wider public and will publish essays and interviews when they need to be published.

2021 Halifax International Security Forum

November 19-21, 2021

Halifax, Nova Scotia



Friday, November 19


Welcome On the record


Mr. Peter Van Praagh

President, Halifax International Security Forum

Opening Remarks ON THE RECORD


Minister Anita Anand

Minister of National Defence, Canada


Plenary 1: After the Fall –– On the record


President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

4th President of the Republic of Croatia

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator for New Hampshire

Dr. Janice Stein

Belzberg Professor of Conflict Management and Founding Director, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Ms. Sabrina Saqeb

Former Member of Parliament, Afghanistan

Moderator Ms. Luiza Savage

Executive Editor, POLITICO

After nearly two decades of Western military presence in Afghanistan, a resurgence of regional instability and authoritarianism is occurring following the withdrawal of troops.

The inaugural plenary of HFX 2021 featured women in global positions of political and thought leadership. All shared their dismay at the pressing threat that the Taliban regime poses to women’s rights, mobility, social and economic freedoms, and overall regional security. Joined by Sabrina Saqeb, a former Afghan Member of Parliament, the plenary explored the fragility of institutions in a fledgling democracy.

Jeanne Shaheen and Janice Stein highlighted the difficult task of separating the humanitarian issue of growing food insecurity and lack of access to basic needs from efforts to thwart the Taliban from outside Afghanistan’s borders.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović compared her experiences in Bosnia & Herzegovina to her on-the-ground experiences in Afghanistan. Ultimately, she argued for the importance of military intervention to stabilize situations, allowing for long-term growth of democratic institutions.

The panelists emphasized the need to keep Afghanistan alive in the minds and the policies of governments across the world. They also highlighted many improvements to quality of life that depended on the stability of the past 20 years.  For many young Afghans, it is the only form of government they have known. They agreed on the importance of delivering aid to safeguard humanity and discussed the efficacy and responsibility of Western military forces in promoting (or preventing) a uniquely Afghan democracy.




Halifax Chat


Minister Anita Anand

Minister of National Defence, Canada

Moderator Andy Fillmore

Member of Parliament for Halifax, House of Commons, Canada

Two Nova Scotians, Minister Anita Anand and Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, used the first Chat to discuss the Government of Canada’s priorities. Minister Anand highlighted the need to address climate change as the threat grows more severe. It gives rise to different types of disasters globally, and Canada is no exception. Armed forces are increasingly called on to protect citizens and communities through emergency relief – a pattern we should expect to continue. Minister Anand also spoke of the crisis of sexual misconduct, noting that misogyny and racism have created a culture that prevents everyone feeling they have a place in Canada’s armed forces. She discussed new measures that will build public confidence and trust, as well as respect for victims and survivors. The Minister’s experience in procurement has her focused on ensuring Canada’s armed forces have the equipment and resources they need to effectively serve and defend Canada’s interests.


Halifax Chat On the record


General Richard Clarke

Commander, United States Special Operations Command

Moderator Mr. Nick Schifrin

Foreign Affairs and Defense Correspondent, PBS NewsHour

According to General Richard Clarke, Commander U.S. Special Operations Command, targeted and collaborative military intervention has largely been able to contain extremist threats from al-Qaeda and ISIS that endanger democracy. This success emanates from international and local collaboration with the United States in countries like Afghanistan. For General Clarke, we need to harness the power of intelligence gathering to foresee and prevent risks to allies. In addition to increasing SIGINT, leveraging the power of deterrence is key to keeping Pandora’s box of great power conflicts closed. By allowing soft forces to focus on capacity building, we can ensure greater resilience and deterrence in regions where aggression is growing—a lesson that can be learned from the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan. General Clarke shared that tactics have evolved in ways that minimize civilian casualties. He emphasized that while new approaches are more challenging, the military is used to doing things that are difficult and their resolve is strong.


Plenary 2- The Next 9/11: From Kabul or From California (or from some lab we haven’t heard of yet)? On the record


Dr. Fatima Akilu

Executive Director, NEEM Foundation

Senator Tim Kaine

United States Senator for Virginia

Mr. Jawed Ludin

Former Deputy Foreign Minister, Afghanistan

Dr. Constanze Stelzenmüller

Senior Fellow, Fritz Stern Chair on Germany and trans- Atlantic Relations at Brookings Institution

Moderator Mr. Nick Schifrin

Foreign Affairs and Defense Correspondent, PBS NewsHour

The rapid withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has raised questions and concerns about the possibility of the next security shock to be heard around the world – the next 9/11. The January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the growing threat of climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic are examples of disruptive events that lead security experts to ask: what catastrophe will trigger the next global security crisis? How can democracies around the world protect themselves against the next big threat?

Sen. Tim Kaine posits that the next 9/11 will—literally and figuratively—come from within the house. He believes that there is something rotten in the state, and policymakers must work on fixing internal institutional and cultural issues to be resilient to external attacks. Dr. Fatima Akilu raises concerns that climate change, disinformation, and poor connections—both physical infrastructure and human—are exacerbating global jeopardy. Looking specifically at Afghanistan, Dr. Constanze Stelzenmüller notes that the American-Afghani relationship runs deeper than political allyship and underscores the importance of the human aspect in security actions. Jawed Ludin highlights that international and Afghani solidarity and skepticism against the Taliban is an opportunity for community empowerment to prevent the next 9/11.

The array of unprecedented and systemic security problems that have arisen in the past 20 years demonstrate that democracy is neither infallible nor impenetrable. However, not all hope is lost. Global collaboration and renewed commitments emerge during times of crisis. Going forward, the question to ask is: will policymakers be able to see the forest from the trees?


Shuttle to Pier 21


Gala Dinner

  • 22:30


    Afghanistan: Why?

    Dr. Gilles Carbonnier

    Vice-President, International Committee of the Red Cross; Sabrina Saqeb, Former Member of Parliament, Afghanistan

    Sabrina Saqeb

    Former Member of Parliament, Afghanistan

    Ms. Kamila Sidiqi

    CEO Kaweyan Group of Companies and Former Deputy Minister of Commerce, Afghanistan

    Moderator Roland Paris

    Director, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa

    Dr. Liam Fox

    Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

    The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull

    29th Prime Minister, Australia

    Minister François-Phillipe Champagne

    Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Canada

    Sir Michael Arthur

    President, Boeing International

    Moderator Mr. Tom Clark

    Chair, Public Affairs and Communications at Global Public Affairs

    Dr. Szu-chien Hsu

    Deputy Secretary-General, National Security Council, Taiwan

    Mr. Jan Havránek

    Deputy Minister of Defence Policy and Strategy, Czech Republic

    Professor Steve Tsang

    Director, China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

    Moderator Mr. Dean Fealk

    Managing Partner, DLA Piper