Jonathan Goodhand is a Professor of Conflict and Development Studies in the Development Studies Department at SOAS and a Professor of International Development at the University of Melbourne. His research broadly engages with the political economy of conflict, borderlands and post war trans...
Contested transitions: International drawdown and the future state in Afghanistan
Jonathan Goodhand, 26 November 2012
At the end of 2014, when the bulk of foreign military forces are projected to withdraw, the international coalition will have been in Afghanistan for over 12 years. At its peak there were more than 130,000 foreign troops in the country, with the international community incurring an annual cost of over $100 billion per year. This deep foreign footprint is set to become lighter over the coming years, although the international presence in the country is sure to remain significant in various ways.
This paper examines the stability and fragility of the contemporary Afghan state during the coming period of transition. Rooted in a close analysis of the last troubled decade of international intervention, the paper explores the paradoxical attempts to build peace whilst waging war. It assesses the ways in which a brittle and exclusive political settlement was constructed, the wayward efforts at central state building in Kabul, and the perpetuation of the country’s entrenched patterns of conflict and insurgency.
Given the coming changes in international engagement, as well the likely effects of the foreign military drawdown on Afghanistan’s political settlement, the paper ends by considering four scenarios for the future of the Afghan state, ranging along a continuum from an optimistic liberal and developmental scenario at one end, to a regionalised civilwar at the other. The evidence at present points to one of, or a combination of the two intermediary scenarios, these being consolidated oligarchy or ‘durable disorder’.
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This report is part of a series that analyses the future of the state. The series is coordinated and co-published by NOREF and the Conflict Research Unit of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, with support from the Ford Foundation.