Original document was submitted as an honors thesis requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

Document Type



The situation in Afghanistan seems to be about as dire as it was in the 1980s. One major difference, though, is that Soviet forces no longer occupy the country, and at least the United States/NATO occupation is under the pretext of a humanitarian effort. Even so, the tragic process of U.S.-led state-building that has unfolded these last ten years has yielded little in terms of an effective government or infrastructure of any kind. If anything, the terrorist threat that the U.S. hoped to quell has become more elusive and determined than ever. Ethnic rivalry and warlordism are as prevalent as they were during the post-Soviet civil war of the mid-1990s, and the “neutral” Western forces currently in the country are more commonly seen as aggressors similar to the Taliban, external liberators who reneged on their promises to end gender-based violence. In light of these manifest failures, the analysis will begin under the premise of doubt: I will explore and challenge the epistemological foundation of Western intervention in Afghanistan, thereby arriving at solid footing from which to proceed with a cogent series of policy suggestions with the goal of creating lasting peace within the state. I will ultimately conclude that a heavily reduced presence of U.S. and NATO forces, working in an advisory capacity, will be necessary to guide the Afghan government into creating an effective security apparatus, thus allowing for a double paradigm shift to occur: not only will the U.S. and NATO begin redirecting military funding away from dangerous offensive operations and toward building an improved economy and more effective policing institutions, but the Afghan government itself will, in turn, be thus capable of refocusing its efforts on autonomously instilling the rule of law.

The discussion will begin with an analysis of the theoretical assertions made both in Anne Orford’s piece, “What can we do to stop people harming others?” and Robert D. Hanser’s article entitled “Peacemaking Criminology.” I will then offer a critique of the theories as I attempt to apply them to the case of Afghanistan, arguing in favor of a relatively small U.S. and NATO military presence. Following this section, I will question through use of comparative analysis the very principle that democracy is preferable to the authoritarianism that arose in the state after the Soviet occupation – and ultimately question that democracy and Islam are compatible – by pointing to competing viewpoints on the subject. By using process tracing, I will attempt to understand if there is a correlation between the form of government being implemented in the state and the current lack of peace and unity. A discussion of warlordism in Afghanistan will then be appropriate to illustrate the difficulties in setting up a Western-style democracy with a secure legal structure, as well as the reasons that required an organization as severe as the Taliban to obtain power in order for even a modicum of unity to exist within the struggling state. Finally, I will end by making a series of recommendations which address the ineffective and disastrous use of Western military forces in the region and which will take into account the need for ethnic unity made possible by an effective central security apparatus.