The Western-led efforts to establish a new post-Taliban order in Afghanistan are in serious trouble, and in this book Suhrke sets out to explain why. She begins with the dynamic of the intervention and its related peace-building mission. What were the forces shaping this grand international project? What explains the apparent systemic bias towards a deeper and broader international involvement? Many reasons have been cited for its limited achievements and ever-growing difficulties, the most common explanation being that the national, regional, and international contexts were unfavourable. But many policies were misguided while the multinational operation itself was extraordinarily and unnecessarily complex. Astri Suhrke's main thesis is that the international project itself contains serious tensions and contradictions that significantly contributed to the lack of progress. As a result, the deepening involvement proved dysfunctional: massive international support has created an extreme version of a rentier state that is predictably weak, corrupt and unaccountable; US-led military operations undercut the peacebuilding agenda, and more international aid and monitoring to correct the problems generate Afghan resentment and evasion. Continuing these policies will only reinforce the dynamic. The alternative is a less intrusive international presence, a longer time-frame for reconstruction and change, and negotiations with the militants that can end the war and permit a more Afghan-directed order to emerge.
Astri Suhrke is Senior Researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway, 1992 to present, having previously been Professor of International Relations at the American University, Washington, DC. Her research experience in Afghanistan dates back over twenty-five years.