This report is one of a number of analytical studies commissioned under the banner of the ‘Understanding Afghanistan’ exercise to support the formulation of DFID’s Country Plan and to enhance its role in operationalising the UK’s National Security, International Relations and Development (NSID) strategy for Afghanistan. It provides a detailed Political Economy Analysis (PEA) of Afghanistan which covers early and recent attempts at state-building up to and including the post-2001 period. It examines the developments in politics, security and economics fostered by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRA) and the manner in which these emerge from and interact with historical structures and patterns. The report’s authors chart the successes and failures of previous attempts at state-building and extract lessons learned applicable to the present day. In so doing, they identify the major drivers of Afghanistan’s contemporary political economy and provide a series of recommendations for using these to pursue greater security, more stable political arrangements and more prosperous economic growth.
One of the authors’ main findings is that the post-Taliban international intervention was underpinned by the assumption that foreign support for a Western-style state could create enduring peace, stability and economic prosperity. However, Afghanistan’s structural context represents an unpromising site for externally-driven state-building, and the good-intentioned efforts of the international community have not only permitted but, in fact, actively contributed to weak centre-periphery relations, rising corruption, insurgency, a booming narcotics industry and continued poverty. The report outlines why the fundamental assumptions concerning Afghanistan’s stabilisation and reconstruction are unfounded, how they have undermined fragile institutions and how they, and the bulk of the international intervention, can be corrected and made more appropriate for the context. The project Manager was Oliver Mathieson (Maxwell Stamp). The exercise was led by Dr. Peter J. Middlebrook (Geopolicity), and co-authored with Jonathan Goodhand and Chris Cramer (SOAS), Anna Patterson and Simon Foot. The overall exercise was coordinated by Sharon Miller.