CSRC Working Paper 62

The Eye of the Storm: cities in the vortex of Afghanistan's civil wars
Working Paper No : 62 (series 2)
Author: Antonio Giustozzi
Date : November 2009
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In this paper Afghanistan expert Antonio Giustozzi examines the turbulent relationship between cities, local leaders and 'warlords'. He explores how this has affected the emergence of states and the re-establishment of state-like polities in the country. The author takes an urban perspective on the conflict in Afghanistan and provides an overview of the evolution of urban-rural relationships, the role of armed groups and the impact of non-state actors and foreign intervention on Afghanistan's civil wars. He concludes that in periods of state weakness or disintegration, the domination of cities over rural areas, or vice-versa, was fluid until 2001 when foreign intervention re-empowered the cities and encouraged the urban elites to distance themselves from village-based power groups.

This research suggest that, although close collaboration between cities and powerful rural warlords was not realised in Afghanistan, some form of cooperation did exist. This cooperation indicates there was the potential to bring about a monopoly of violence, professional skills and resources, all of which have been essential components for the emergence of states in many regions of the world. This paper raises important and difficult questions regarding the impact of foreign intervention on processes of state integration and highlights the need to consider more closely the possibility of different outcomes if foreign intervention did not occur.

Dr Giustozzi is a Research Fellow with the Crisis States Research Centre and is the author of several books on Afghanistan.

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