Navigating The Political Landscape In Afghanistan

September 15, 2009

This site takes a pluralist approach to its analysis. Pluralism refers to an image of international relations that assumes that non-state actors (NSA) are important entities in state affairs. The state is not necessarily a rational and unitary actor, but is composed of a multitude of competing bureaucracies, individuals, and groups. The agenda of state politics is extensive and goes well beyond security concerns. Most of the work on decision making and transnationalism falls within the pluralist image as the result of a focus on a multiplicity of factors and actors. The political situation in Afghanistan is a prime example of this view’s scope.  

The regions of Afghanistan are areas of contestation reflecting differing tribal relationships, socio-economic conditions, and religious understandings. Afghan views of life are grounded in regional customs that are bounteous and diverse. A unifying trait among Afghans has been the efforts to resist colonization and to facilitate continuity of their historical cultures. This desire to repel outside forces has been a basis for Afghans fighting against both NATO forces and Taliban forces alike. At the moment, many Afghans do not distinguish between the two opposing groups. Afghani xenophobia accounts for such a muddied worldview, but this is an issue that cannot be overlooked when problematizing the war in Afghanistan.

If the West is serious about confronting the Taliban and al Qaeda forces within Afghani boundaries, then NATO’s divisions are going to have to develop what Max Weber termed “verstehen.” Weber coined the term to refer to a social scientist’s attempt to deduce both the aim and context of human action. To put it another way, verstehen means an ’empathetic understanding’ for an objective comprehension of subjective motives and social actions. Verstehen would allow NATO to nuance the dominant/subordinate power structures that differ from region to region in the country. Disaggregating local tribes could allow NATO forces to pinpoint who the various power brokers are within a given system. They could then construct pure regional models for cross-country comparative analysis. That way, NATO could change its tactics from region to region for a more custom response to Taliban insurgencies. 

Even though many Taliban are Afghan in nationality, they have been influenced by the Pakistani version of Deobandi ideology (see earlier post). Deobandi is still seen as an outside corrupting influence by the majority of Afghans. NATO troops have to capitalize on this sentiment if they hope to use their authority to expel the Taliban’s hold on the country. NATO’s political and military objectives can only be achieved by winning over, and possibly manipulating the various regional Afghani populations.

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One Response to “Navigating The Political Landscape In Afghanistan”

  1. Hey very nice blog!!….I’m an instant fan, I have bookmarked you and I’ll be checking back on a regular….See ya

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