f_0017766_15217 - Afghanistan: At the Crossroads Michael P....

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Fall 2009 The Ambassadors REVIEW 25 Afghanistan: At the Crossroads Michael P. Cohn * Researcher and Analyst, Glevum Associates ocated on an ancient highway of trade and conquest, at the crossroads of civilizations, Afghanistan, rugged and remote, has withstood many invasions and undergone numerous internal changes over the centuries. Today it sits at the crossroads of history. Physically, politically and culturally, it remains a perplexing mix of modernity and the past. Governed by its own rules and codes, deeply averse to order imposed either by an outsider or a central authority from within, it has always been a uniquely unforgiving No- Man’s-Land. The population, predominately rural, has always preferred an agrarian social structure consisting of tribal codes and historical relationships underpinned by Islam to modern forms of governance and administration. Urban centers maintain social, religious and trade networks, but government authority rarely extends beyond the city gates. Force is usually the main engine of power, but popular support is essential for the long term. Such support demands culturally and religiously specific forms of justice and security that are sometimes at odds with modern versions. Contemporary structures and values all too often fall victim to perpetual infighting, religious and tribal reactionaryism, and various forms of subversive involvement from regional actors. Today, the American- led project in Afghanistan faces the same problems. Afghanistan has suffered from instability and brutal conflict for three decades. Most signs of modern development and infrastructure, so evident by the 1970s, have been destroyed and left in ruins or at best half-started. No doubt modern sentiments and values are present, especially in the urban areas, and connections to a larger regional and worldwide community are fairly common. But this takes place in the midst of a cultural landscape that originated a thousand years ago, and has changed little beyond the outskirts of Kabul. One could say that thirty years of war has dragged this country back to an era more akin to the medieval period; for most rural areas, perhaps a period it never really left. Most Afghans cringe at the possibility of the Taliban retaking power in the country. But the Taliban have been very effective at reasserting different forms of influence in the rural areas of Afghanistan, hampering reconstruction efforts and deterring local co- operation with the Afghan government and/or Western entities. Previously stable areas in the west and north of the country are now becoming increasingly dangerous as the Taliban presence grows. Support and good will for both the Afghan government and Western forces have diminished and the Taliban have re-stepped into the vacuum. Supported by several regional interests and displaying a vigorous, effective information campaign, they exert increasing influence throughout the country by utilizing various modes of intimidation, * Editor’s Note
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This note was uploaded on 01/25/2012 for the course COMM 321 taught by Professor Erinmcclellan during the Spring '11 term at Boise State.

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f_0017766_15217 - Afghanistan: At the Crossroads Michael P....

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