The Critical Gap Between Local Versus International Perspectives on Security and Justice and Its Implications for the U.S.-Led International Intervention in Afghanistan, 2001-2006: Between State-Building and the Global War on Terrorism




Nojumi, Neamatollah

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This research examines the differences between the perceptions of the U.S.-led international intervention actors and the Afghan population, particularly in the area of security and justice over the period between 2001 and 2006. Understanding these perceptions was instructive in assessing their possible implications for U.S. engagement, and in evaluating the relationship of the U.S. engagement to the attitudes of the Afghan population. This study concluded, among other factors, that the critical gap between international and local perspectives of security and justice suggest that the failed and failing state notions as argued in the literature and enshrined in key U.S. national security documents proved too narrow to guide the intervention in Afghanistan. Lessons from Afghan history suggest that Afghan monarchs‘ and presidents‘ visions of centralization were more a romantic understanding of a modern nation-state. Recent historical accounts, as briefly stated in this study, suggest that Afghan leaders and their international backers often failed to understand the population, map their resources, and invest in the Afghan human capital. This tendency led the Afghan state elite to look outward to manipulate the environment that was available within the Great Game played between the Soviets and the U.S. during the Cold War as well as during the first six years of the post-Taliban era. The difference of perspectives on security and justice between international forces and the local populace during the first six years, as was assessed in this study, suggests that the inclusion of local narratives of host nations‘ cultures and politics may be a critical requirement for any future U.S.-led international intervention. This study concludes that relying on a narrow and highly generalized notion of failed and failing states was intellectually too thin of a basis upon which to wage an international intervention. In this direction, military interventions without a clear political strategy and adequate civilian resources will likely not win the war. A reasonable balance between the stated interests of the intervention actors and the basic needs of the locals must be attained, with the following points considered: (a) The U.S.-led counterterrorism objectives, without being transformed toward accommodating the basic needs of the local populations, failed to attain its objectives during the first six years of intervention; (b) A state centralization program in the area of security and justice is a failed model of polity and produces cultural violence, insecurity, and injustice; and (c) insurgency, corruption, and ethnic violence can be viewed as symptomatic outcomes of structural flaws that can be reinforced by cultural violence.



Afghanistan, Taliban, Post-conflict, U.S. led international intervention, Security and justice, Peacebuilding