The Taliban are gone now, but will they be back? To judge by this scholarly account of Afghan politics, the chances are good that the answer is yes.
State-building in Afghanistan, Dorronsoro (Political Science/Sorbonne) suggests, is akin to stacking mercury with a pitchfork. So it has been from the first, when, in 1929, the constitutional monarchy of Afghanistan was carved out of bits of the former Persian Empire. Soon rivalries of various kinds—personal, ethnic, regional, religious and political—began to pull the country apart. The Communists came to power in the 1970s in part because the educated urban elite had abandoned some of those rivalries in favor of an ideology that put party solidarity ahead of other kinds of loyalties. But, Dorronsoro argues, the Communist Party failed to build a base outside the cities where that educated elite lived: “Radio stations throughout the country spread the new regime’s propaganda,” Dorronsoro writes, “but the unfamiliar Marxist-Leninist language fell harshly on the people’s ears.” At the same time, Islamic students began to reject the teachings of the traditional mullahs and, when civil war came, to radicalize a countryside already inclined to despise city dwellers. That war against the Marxist regime and its Soviet benefactors had many causes, Dorronsoro writes, though it was widely interpreted as mainly an ethnic conflict, “since this was the only language which the foreign powers understood without difficulty.” Following the Soviet defeat and the overthrow of the Marxists, the old rivalries began to emerge; a decade later, they would be complicated by a split between those who favored Iraq over those who favored Saudi Arabia. Enter the short-term winner in that argument, the Taliban, which “gave expression to the desire of rural people to avenge themselves on the towns” even as they alienated the nation’s minorities, yielding an unintended “ethnicization” of the conflict. The minority population is in charge now, backed by an American occupying force. But, Dorronsoro suggests, the time will come when the countryside, resistant to the more liberal cities, will rise again.
A coherent overview for scholars of the region.