Shifting Allegiances in Afghanistan

Yesterday, this blog noted that it would be difficult for Afghan officials and their Western allies to co-opt insurgents into supporting the government in Kabul.  A similar point can be made about other powerbrokers in Afghanistan, including warlords and tribal leaders who are not members of the Taliban.  Two weeks ago, the satirical newspaper The Onion published a darkly humorous article that highlights this problem (the article is titled “Afghan Warlord Not Sure Which Side He Feels Like Helping Today”).

Powerful figures in Afghanistan are notorious for switching allegiances whenever it serves their short term interests.  Warlords and other non-governmental players benefit from the weakness of the central government because it enables them to traffic in narcotics, form private armies, extort money from vulnerable people and generally exert power for egotistical reasons (an impulse that Nietzsche referred to as “the will to power”); consequently, it is highly unlikely that they will submit to the will of leaders in Kabul for a considerable length of time.  Thus, the future stability of Afghanistan is not only threatened by the Taliban, which is the main target of US and ISAF military efforts there, but also local and regional kingpins who exploit both sides of the conflict and pursue their own political and financial ends.  This fact does not bode well for the fate of nation-building efforts in the war-torn country.

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