Policy Research Papers
Afghanistan’s upheavals have been a result of many factors. Abject poverty, being landlocked, a hostile region, clash of modernists and traditionalists, weak states, interventions by superpowers, presence of foreign non-state actors and an illicit narco-economy are but a few to mention. The country continues to reel from the effects of colonial constructs of the British and Russian empires of the nineteenth century, a devastating proxy war between the Soviet Union and the US and its western allies in 1980s, an atrocious civil war in 1990s, followed by being an international terrorists’ safe haven, the current presence of international military forces, and the all-too-real prospect of another war between the Taliban on the one side and the international military forces and the Afghan government on the other side. Furthermore, its rulers and their organizations have a mixed record in politics and governance. In consequence, it is unsurprising that the country has experienced the emergence and presence of a broad array of political groups and parties, some nascent and some centuries old.
In order to make sense of Afghanistan’s current situation, it is necessary to understand the political landscape of the country. A look at the past and present of the political forces in the country will contribute to establishing the extent to which local political actors are determinants in the direction the country is going to take in the near future. It will also help explain why the country stands where it is today.
The literature on elitism is indicative of the fact that post-war societies serve as the contestation grounds for political and economic elites, with little or no regard to the common man. Afghanistan presents an intriguing case, as to whether or not the heavy presence of international actors has altered this equation; and whether there will be any changes once the international military forces are withdrawn from the country. A key test of this notion will be the coming April’s presidential election.