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The Afghan War Warrants A Paradigmatic Shift for State-Building

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  • October 05, 2012
    Fellows' Seminar
    Open to all Members; others pl. contact Conference Cell
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chair: Dr. Ashok K. Behuria
    Discussants: Prof. Riyaz Punjabi and Dr. D Subachandran,

    Major Highlights of the Paper: The Afghan state whose security and legitimacy is warred for and which is sought rebuilt has meagre institutional remnants indicating a direction and the case is thus more or less a tabula rasa. The counterinsurgency campaign is effectively a state- (re)building endeavour as well as a military undertaking. Ms. Muska Dastageer’s paper poses two crucial questions; first, ‘which overarching state construct is NATO, United States Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) contributing to the building of?’ and second, ‘will the institutional remnants of corroded, yet still, extant systems of societal organisation coalesce favourably with this nascent state?’ She wants to examine whether ‘bringing security back in’ in the area of state-building-in the foundational Hobbesian sense-within conflict-beleaguered environments could mark an optimised understanding of what it takes to engineer a state that is home grown i.e. non-Westphalian.

    Ms. Dastageer identified two variables that fundamentally alter the state making equation. The first variable looks at state-as making of war and the second variable, the colonial tautology and Pakistan. Thus, she made an attempt to situate state-building in Afghanistan in both its temporal-spatial contingency and a regional realm.

    The presenter argued that organisations such as NATO and USFOR-A, their raison d’etre and conduct-underlying vision, are shaped by the theoretical discourse of the rationalist actor based, realist paradigm. The initial failures in Afghanistan –traversing the strategic-operation-tactical divides-can arguably be attributed to a slowness, an inertia, on the part of NATO to adjust to a different world.

    She sought to demonstrate the validity of the micro-macro nexus of an intrastate war with interstate tensions attributable to colonial legacies. She argued, state building as espoused by the Security Primacy Doctrine- an approach interlinking state-building with security setting and the security-setting corpus traversing institutional strategic-operational-tactical divides-warrants the avoidance of rigid template-following and calls for it to be commensurable with the temporal spatial contingencies. It calls for a continuously iterative modus operandi with the onus being on ANSF, the concrete security-setters in question, to assure the conferral of legitimacy to the Afghan Government.

    The presenter argues that the study is not merely pertinent for the Afghan case, but furthers the argument that Afghanistan figures as a laboratory for future conflicts arising along the intrastate chasms that is the legacy for post-colonial states of a past of Western hegemony.

    Major point of discussion and suggestions to the author:

    • While the paper was appreciated by the discussants, they suggested that the paper needed to bring out more Afghan approach to the problem. The paper should also include the non-official perceptions in Afghanistan. In other words paper needs to address the local perception.
    • It was also suggested that incorporation of an explanation of idea of Afghanistan in the paper would help the reader to understand whether Afghanistan has been studied as a nation or a state.

    Report prepared by Gulbin Sultana, IDSA