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Afghanistan's lack of a state monopoly of violence reflects on its foreign policy in a number of ways. First, various non-state organizations developing their own relations with foreign countries. Second, enforcing coherent policy making within the institutions of the Afghan state itself has been sometimes problematic as officials could rely on the patronage of organizations external to the state to delay the implementation of official policies. This article discusses the cases of Afghan foreign policy towards Pakistan, India, China and Iran.

In: Central Asian Affairs

This article explores the relationship between reformatting of Bishkek’s central square “from above” and mosaics of meanings, claims, and practices produced by different social actors “from below” in response to the ongoing transformation of this space. Drawing on narratives of long-term Bishkek residents and recent internal migrants to the city, we investigate commonalities and divergences in their perception of Ala-Too’s changing image. It is shown why the square, despite its planned multifunctionality, does not fulfill the needs of various segments of the city population. We also analyze political meanings of the “emptiness” of the square and the ambivalent public reaction to the ways it is being “filled.” The square becomes a spatial mirror of society—a society that remains in constant flux, searching for social stability and for unifying national symbols, heroes, and slogans.

In: Central Asian Affairs
In: The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces
In: The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces

The interaction between Central Asia and Afghanistan is conventionally discussed either from the perspective of spillovers or from the other side of the coin, namely economic cooperation around the slogan of reviving the Silk Road. Yet, for a better grasp of Central Asia’s position on the Afghan question, it is necessary to shift the perspective of analysis from international relations to domestic policies. This article aims to decipher the many internal drivers that shape Uzbek and Tajik policies toward and perceptions of Afghanistan. Understanding decision-making mechanisms and the legitimacy of the authorities, identifying elite groups and their connection to their Afghan counterparts, and grasping the process of knowledge production, all help to better understand how Afghanistan’s neighbors shape their policy.

In: Central Asian Affairs

By all accounts, the post-2001 state-building effort in Afghanistan failed to deliver on its promise. Rather than blame politicians, insurgency, or obdurate customary authority, this article suggests the constitutional principles upon which the state was constructed ultimately undermined the state itself. In an attempt to address the enormous human suffering in Afghanistan, the 2004 Constitution proclaimed a vast array of positive rights to be implemented by an extremely centralized state apparatus. Yet this vision, in which individuals should look to the state as a source of individual and community well-being, is dramatically out of step with a reality in which individuals neither trusts the centralized state, nor relies on it for many public goods. For many Afghans, the notion of well-being is tied to independence from the state. An alternative state-building vision, one that appreciates a constitutional order stressing negative rights and recognizes the virtues of self-governance, would have resonated much more deeply with a society that has been served by chronically weak governments. This article uses evidence from an original nationally-representative survey and field interviews to illustrate the disjuncture between a self-governing society in which individuals strive for limited government and a state-building ‘antidote’ that offers up a very different medicine. The essay concludes by explaining why a more limited and politically bounded state-building approach, especially in rural areas, may be an important alternative to promote citizen well-being.

In: Central Asian Affairs
In: Central Asian Affairs
In: Central Asian Affairs
In: Central Asian Affairs