Though the fault lines of state building in today’s post-Taliban Afghanistan might seem difficult to comprehend to some, USC Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek shed light on the challenges the Middle Eastern nation faces in a late Wednesday afternoon lecture.
Rasuly-Paleczek explored reasons behind the current plight of international and national efforts to stabilize the country and proposed possible solutions for the road that lies ahead.
“In the West, but also within Afghanistan and neighboring countries, people are quite puzzled that despite more than a decade of efforts to stabilize the country … nothing could really be achieved,” Rasuly-Paleczek said. “Beginning with the bond process in 2001, which highlighted the idea of recreating a highly centralized Afghan state, this model is totally inadequate … From my perspective, using this model of centralized state already is a type of malconception. It does not take into account that Afghanistan has changed.”
Afghanistan has led a tumultuous history leading up to present day, from early Islamization and the Mongol invasion to dynastic cycles to the Soviet war, civil war and now, the end to a decade-long U.S.-led war.
Despite the nation’s troubled history, Rasuly-Paleczek said she believes that a stable future is possible.
“A balancing of power can best be achieved not by a centralized model, but a federative system to give more voice to the various regions of the country,” Rasuly-Paleczek said.
However, according to Rasuly-Paleczek, a federative model was never taken into account because of the tradition of a strong state.
“Despite all the problems, I think an amendment of the constitution is necessary,” Rasuly-Paleczek said. “We must find, in order to solve this problem, trust-building and concrete resolution mechanisms on several levels. But there are different approaches. Some are saying that the regions should be involved. Others are saying it should be people who are outside this whole conflict, but it should not be Iran or Pakistan.”
There are changes that have occurred over time that must also be taken into account as Afghanistan continues to build its state, Rasuly-Paleczek added.
“At the end of the 19th century, both superpowers at that time agreed on Afghanistan being a vassal state, whereas now, it’s not clear … Iran and, in particular, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia could play a role, and that was not the case in the 19th century,” Rasuly-Paleczek said. “People are yearning for peace and recently, putting aside conflicts, like tabula rasa.”
For freshman international relations major Luke Phillips, stability is an almost unattainable concept in the current political state of Afghanistan.
“The way things have been going on right now, regardless of what kind of sentiments that people want to have happen, I think the forces of history are just too strong,” Phillips said. “I suppose if there is a holistic government involving the Taliban, then that would bring more stability then they’ve had since 2001, but I don’t think there would be sufficient democracy-building.”
Others, including Professor of Anthropology Erin Moore, remain hopeful for the region.
“There are a lot of countries that are just as diverse, like India, that have come from a place of many separate kingdoms, and they were able to come together into a peaceful nation,” Moore said. “Just because [Afghanistan’s] so diverse and has a history of diverse kingdoms doesn’t mean that it can’t be a nation-state in the near future.”
For Lynn Matthews, an attendee of the lecture, the potential solutions are a confirmation of what the Afghan population hopes for. Matthews visited Afghanistan in September, and said she saw the people’s desire to find peace firsthand.
“The one continuous theme in every school that I visited, from Mazar-e-Sharif to Jalalabad, they wanted peace, and you know, I told these kids, you guys are the future of Afghanistan,” Matthews said. “I just want to believe, and I hope and pray that if we could encourage more education there, it’s going to pull people out of this militant thing going on and make them focus on education, stopping this war and moving on to live in peace.”