What Legitimate Actor?

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

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Is Armed Truce the Future of Political Order?

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

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Urban Violence in Comparative Perspective

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

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No Sustainable Peace without Involving Transnational Partners

Next week the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law will bring together a mix of academics, policy-makers, and NGO representatives to talk about the transnational dimension of ‘local’ conflicts, in Mali and Afghanistan more particularly. Before we all meet in the Hague the Knowledge Platform, in cooperation with The Broker, is hosting and coordinating an online debate on these questions (http://www.kpsrl.org/online-debate). Here is my contribution (for replies and more debate, see link above). Continue reading

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Marshal Fahim Died Today

Marshal Fahim, the first Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, died of a heart attack Sunday March 9, 2014. In these times of uncertainty, his death raises important questions and is likely to impact the future of Afghan politics. The man controlled one of the most extensive patronage networks in Afghanistan. With the upcoming presidential election and the U.S. withdrawal scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, these networks are becoming high commodities. Patrons control commanders. Commanders control votes. Continue reading

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Afghanizing COIN

No civilian in the development world really likes to talk about military issues. At best people will mention the development/security nexus, or the need to disarm violent militias that don’t respect human rights and good governance. Most NGO workers, UN personnel, and other peace-building experts didn’t go to Afghanistan to solve military issues anyway. Continue reading

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Patrimonialism, Warlordism, and Corruption

Patrimonialism, warlordism, and corruption… These are what most Western observers believe to be some of the greatest impediments to the modernization of Afghanistan. Add opium to the list and you can start to grasp the difficulty and complexity of building a Weberian state in this so-called “narco-state.” Continue reading

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