Gringo Lost

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Blogging Heads on Afghanistan State Building

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I just watched this Bloggingheads video with Professor Robert Farley and Seth Jones, author of In the Graveyard of Empires (apologies for the link, I find it impossible to embed a Bloggingheads video).

The interview covered a few topics but the most pertinent was “why Afghanistan is so hard to govern”.  Jones’ basic reductions are that a state-building effort necessitates significantly more resources than we are devoting.

Additionally, building a strong central government will require awareness that rural tribal localities tend to resist central government influence.  Jones identifies two points in history when a central government has been able to exist and be effective, partly because of how it tip-toed the rural tribal dynamics of the country.

  1. One instance: When former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah ruled he would make pacts with local tribal Shuras which maintained their relative sovereignty from the central government and prohibited mandatory conscription into the Afghan national security forces.  In total, Jones believes this prevented local rebellions from forming.
  2. Another instance: During the short period of Soviet rule, they would use proxies and militias in urban and rural areas to stifle dissent.  But, of course this didn’t last long.  It also sounds akin to what the US did in Vietnam with the Phoenix program.

An instance, where the central government failed was when Amanullah Khan attempted to push central authority into the hinterland.


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