Studying active conflict zones in the 21st century is uniquely difficult. New forms of war and non-state armed actors blur the lines of the battlefield, and Westerners are increasingly targeted.
We have spent years researching the politics of warlords, rebels and foreign interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and the Turkey-Syria borderland. These places have become increasingly perilous countries in which to work. But they remain of great concern for Western policymakers. Continue reading
As a candidate and now as US president, Donald J. Trump has consistently refused to specify his plan for fighting Daesh, short of his earlier promise to “bomb the (expletive) out of them”. The White House also seems to be at a loss when it comes to developing a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan. Continue reading
Can fieldwork still be done in today’s most violent warzones? We contend that long-held methodological principles about power and impartiality do not hold in today’s conflict-ridden environments. Research of this kind can still be pursued, but only if the scholar’s place is reconceived as one of limited power and unavoidable partiality. We argue that those still able to do fieldwork in sites of increasing danger do so by virtue of building their own ‘tribes,’ forming and joining different social micro-systems to collect data and, in some cases, survive. Field research must, therefore, be recognized as its own form of foreign intervention. In considering the future of political science research in the most challenging war-torn settings, we examine the risks and opportunities that accompany ‘tribal politics’ of this kind and underline the importance of reflecting on our own positionality in the process of knowledge production. Continue reading
Donald Trump s’est toujours refusé à livrer un plan de lutte contre Daech. Il a, en revanche, maintes fois affirmé son intention d’intensifier les bombardements aériens contre l’organisation terroriste et sa volonté de rompre avec la stratégie de l’actuel gouvernement américain en la matière. Continue reading
Last month, American officials denied Afghan warlord-turned Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum a visa to the United States. In doing so, they did not simply refuse entry to the second-ranking official of a regime the United States helped put in place. They also turned down a man who was instrumental in recapturing the Northern city of Mazar-e Sharif from the Taliban in 2001; a man who worked hand in hand with US Special Forces as part of the “Global War on Terror.” Fifteen years later, the same man is barred from entering the United States. Continue reading
Despite efforts to bolster failed states over the past two decades, many states in the international system still exhibit endemic weakness. External intervention often leads to political instability and in most cases fails to foster state consolidation, instead empowering and creating ties with the ones it aims to weaken. Using the case of Afghanistan, I develop a typology of political orders that explains variation in degrees of state consolidation and provides the basis for more systematic comparative analysis. I demonstrate the resilience of a political logic according to which non-state armed actors (warlords) “shape-shift” and constantly reinvent themselves to adapt to changing political environments. This article, based on extensive field research in Afghanistan, shows why failed states are unlikely to consolidate and exhibit Western-style state building, as a result of intervention or otherwise.
Book review – NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone by David P. Auerswald and Stephen Saideman, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014, ISBN: 9780691159386
Below is a blog post that I just wrote for the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law and their online debate on “Building peace locally” and “Working with local non-state actors” (available at: http://www.kpsrl.org/online-debate/online-debate-discussion/t/what-legitimate-actor).
Building peace locally is a noble idea. Yet, finding legitimate and accountable local actors to work with is often more complicated than expected, in particular when what is meant by building peace locally in fact comes down to externally selecting and empowering the actors that are considered legitimate. Continue reading
Max Weber, in his seminal Politics as a Vocation lecture, defined a state as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” What logically follows the German sociologist’s classical definition is that state making is a (violent) process that consists in wiping out those who can contest that monopoly inside that territory. Continue reading
As the readers of this blog obviously know, most of my fieldwork in the past seven years has taken me to Afghanistan. Yet as a researcher of conflict and political violence, I find myself interested in other parts of the world. Comparative experience and study is always productive. Not only does it help researchers to better understand broader dynamics and phenomena, but it also leads them to reflect upon the places they know best, in my case Afghanistan. That’s with this mindset that I just took my first trip to Mogadishu. Needless to say Somalia’s capital is extremely different from Kabul. Continue reading