Ethnicizing Afghanistan?

Led by Sven Gunnar Simonsen

Jan 2003 – Dec 2004


This study is part of the post-doctoral project 'Military Intervention and Post-Conflict Nation-Building’, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. Additional support for this study, particularly for fieldwork in Afghanistan, was provided by PRIO's Centre for the Study of Civil War.

The project has resulted in an article entitled ‘Ethnicizing Afghanistan? Inclusion and Exclusion in Post-Bonn Institution-Building’, which will be published in Third World Quarterly, summer 2004.

This article argues that ethnicity has become increasingly salient in Afghan politics and society during the years of war, and discusses how the country’s new institutions can be designed in a way that will contribute towards a reversal of this trend. The article examines a series of policy issues with a bearing on inclusion vs. exclusion in inter-ethnic relations: political institution-building – institutions of government, electoral system, and center-region relations – as well as land rights, state religion, the census, and the new identity document. For each of these the article discusses what outcome would best contribute to longer-term stability and integration, by stimulating inclusive, integrative identities – and what the problems and prospects are for these outcomes to be realized. The article specifically discusses warlords’ role as spoilers, and the potential and limitations to the leverage on Afghan politics that is held by international actors; above all the United States.

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