Aalborg University

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Aalborg University

The Faculty of Social Sciences

Development and International Relations

Kroghstræde 3

9220 Aalborg Øst

Front page images collected at http://epaper.dawn.com/~epaper/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=02_05_2012_001_003


The objective of this thesis is to examine why external factors are creating obstacles when it comes to creating peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Throughout history, Afghanistan has been subject to interventions by external powers, mostly due to geopolitics.

The paper entails a historical aspect that through a triangulation method examines the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from 1979-1989, while drawing parallels to the current intervention of the international community. For this, help is drawn from Chalmers Johnsons’ Blowback perspective and a further development of this approach made by Immanuel Wallerstein, arguing that the Americans are now reaping what they have sowed through their Cold-War foreign policies in Afghanistan. The Mujaheddin army fighting the Soviet in during the invasion later became the Taliban, which the US and the international community is now fighting today, and therefore an account of the Taliban is given in order to understand both parties in the conflict.

This examination also revisits the debate on IR and humanitarian intervention through neo-realism and liberalism. However, emphasis will be on the discipline of sociology through the social theory of social constructivism. The IR theories explain some of the political actions taken by the US and the international society; however, they lack a historical and cultural aspect, which is then supplied by social constructivism. As the state of Afghanistan is of a complex nature these aspect are vital in the peace and reconciliation process. To receive at thorough understanding of the conflict an analysis is made from the view of Afghan actors from political, military, economic, and social arenas. These perspectives provide an Afghan description of some key elements of actor understandings of the conflict, including the role of ethnicity and factionalism with focus on the debate of the Pushtuns, and the issues for a peace process. This leads up to a final examination of the ideational and relation factors that affect the peace and reconciliation process.

1Abstract 2

2Introduction 4

2.1Problem statement 5

3Methodology 6

3.1Scope and selection of theories 9

3.2Literature search 10

4Theories 11

4.1Neo-realism 11

4.1.1Realism and humanitarian intervention 14

4.2Liberalism 15

4.2.1Liberalism and humanitarian intervention 16

4.3Social constructivism 18

4.3.1Constructivism and humanitarian intervention 22

5Summary and framework for the analysis 26

5.1Neo-realism 26

5.2Liberalism 27

5.3Social constructivism 29

5.4The ‘Blowback’ perspective 30

6Analysis 32

6.1The history of external intervention in Afghanistan 32

6.1.1The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from 1979-1989 33

6.1.2Taliban in Afghanistan 36

6.1.3Taliban and the international community 38

6.1.4The Afghan war of 2001-2002 40

6.2The Afghan view and the process of peace and reconciliation 43

6.2.1The conflict and issues for a peace agreement 44

6.2.2Current peace strategies 49

6.2.3Implications for a durable peace process 50

6.3Sub-conclusion 53

7Conclusion 54

8Acknowledgements 56

9References 57


For few countries in the world is it more true, than in the case of Afghanistan, that geography determines the history, politics and the nature of a people. The geo-strategic location of Afghanistan on the crossroads between Iran, the Arabian Sea and India and between South Asia and Central Asia has given its mountain passes and territory an enormous significance (Rashid, 2011). Afghanistan came to the awareness of the international scene with the Soviet intervention in 1979, the guerrilla war waged against the Soviets and the Communist regime in Kabul, the following civil war after the collapse of the Communist government, and the rise of the Taliban with its fundamentalist regime, human rights violation and its harbouring of Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaida terrorists. However, it was the launching of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001 by an alliance of Coalition forces, which really put focus on the country. After three decades of conflict and political instability, Afghanistan is now one of the poorest nations in the world and facing enormous development challenges (UNDP Afghanistan). The development crisis is grave with, for instance, limited access to basic necessities and a continuing exclusion of women and their rights in society1. In order to fully comprehend the contemporary events in Afghanistan, a grasp is required of the country’s geopolitical situation, its ethnic composition and the affect that these two factors have had on its history (Clements, 2003; xiii).

In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds, and in 2001 the US and the international community followed along this path of intervention. Over the last decades there has been a growing acceptance of humanitarian intervention and a responsibility to protect. Thus when states are unwilling or unable to protect their citizens, then the international community inherits that responsibility (Baylis et al., 2008; 170). Humanitarian intervention poses a difficult test for the international society built on principles of non-intervention, sovereignty, and the non-use of force (Wheeler, 2005; 1-2). However, these humanitarian principles often conflict with principles of non-intervention and sovereignty. Theorist John Mill argued that states are accorded certain natural rights as the right to non-intervention, but why is this not the case for Afghanistan? Seeing as the international community, including its neighbouring countries continues to interfere in the domestic policies of Afghanistan. Furthermore, one can only assume that after three decades of war the Afghans would be more than ready for peace and reconciliation, but why then is the peace process prolonged? This leads to the following problem statement:

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