CSRC Working Paper 4

Genesis of a 'Prince': the rise of Ismail Khan in western Afghanistan, 1979-1992
Working Paper No : 4 (series 2)
Author(s) : Antonio GiustozziDate : September 2006

This working paper analyses how the resistance to central government in western Afghanistan developed from a fragmented collection of competing commanders in the early 1980s to a much more unified force by the time the Najibullah government collapsed in 1992. It discusses the role played by political and military legitimacy (warlordism), ideology, coercion and repression, techniques of political consolidation, diplomacy and political manipulation in the rise of the Ismail Khan, who by 1992 had managed to unify under his command much of the resistance in the region and had declared himself Amir. Using the prism of Machiavelli's work Il Principe, the author seeks to identify the characteristics that lead to the successful creation of a prince, or amir. The paper groups the characteristics identified by Machiavelli into three headings: ruthlessness and deceit, institutionalisation and legitimacy, and diplomacy. By examining events in Afghanistan under these headings, the author traces the rise of Ismail Khan and his ability to expand his control over the western region of Afghanistan through the development of a polity based on the traditional model of an Islamic Emirate. This process offers useful lessons about the dynamics of state building in Afghanistan.