Power-Sharing in Afghanistan

Following a second round of voting in the Afghan Presidential election, allegations of fraud led to a potential political crisis. To avert the potential crisis, the two candidates in the run-off election, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, are reported to have agreed to a long-term plan to create a Prime Minister position in the Afghan government. See Afghans to Alter the Government (NYT, 13 July 2014).

Although this plan is being hailed as a breakthrough, and a new hope for future stability, it will be an unstable and slow-going task to make it work. The structure and division of power in the Afghan government is laid out in the constitution. There is no Prime Minister position in the constitution. To change this arrangement, the constitution must be amended.

The mechanism to amend the constitution is to convene a Constitutional Loya Jirga. Article 110 of the constitution articulates the composition of the CLJ. It includes the members of the National Assembly, as well as Presidents of the provincial and district assemblies. One problem here is that the district assemblies have not fully formed.

In the event that the CLJ can be formed in a manner consistent with the requirements of article 110, it will be difficult to manage the group and foster sufficient cooperation to draft articles that a majority can agree upon. There will be much jockeying behind the scenes leading up to the CLJ, as well as during its meeting. This is not a minor issue being debated. It is a fundamental question of how power will be shared, divided, and balanced in a country where strong patronage networks have formed around government offices and sources of foreign revenue, with the two often being synonymous. Stakeholders will not yield their revenue sources or revenue-generating powers without substantial wrangling.

To dig deeper into these issues, see the Constitutional Law section of the Afghanistan Law Bibliography. Article 110 of The Constitution of Afghanistan is fairly straightforward. As the constitution was being drafted, a report from International Crisis Group, Afghanistan’s Flawed Constitutional Process, gave a downbeat assessment of the approach of having power centralized in a strong President. After the drafting, J. Alexander Thier wrote about the constitutional drafting process and debates that arose in The Making of a Constitution in Afghanistan. Thier also wrote with John Dempsey about the issue of constitutional interpretation in Resolving the Crisis over Constitutional Interpretation in Afghanistan. Rainer Grote provides an explanation of the current separation of powers in Separation of Powers in the New Afghan Constitution.

The articles linked to above are all free to access. If you have access to academic databases, there are a variety of other materials listed on the Constitutional Law section that you will be able to access.

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Accessing “Hidden” Analysis on Afghanistan

I have been searching journal article databases and directories in preparation for another edition of the bibliography. For 2014 there are many new and valuable articles on Afghanistan. Some of them are very relevant to the current situation and would likely be of interest to those who work in government, international organisations, NGOs, military, journalism, etc… Unfortunately, many of these analytical articles are hiding behind some very steep pay walls.

I’ve picked out an interesting selection and provided a link plus some info on how much you would have to pay to read these articles (the price is to read one single article):

Nick Miszak & Alessandro Monsutti, “Landscapes of power: local struggles and national stakes at the rural-urban fringe of Kabul, Afghanistan,” The Journal of Peasant Studies, Volume 41, Issue 2 (2014). Link. ($39.00)

Kathleen Collins, “The Limits of Cooperation: Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the New Silk Road,” Asia Policy, Number 17 (January 2014). Link. ($4.95)

Shane A. Smith, “Afghanistan after the Occupation: Examining the Post-Soviet Withdrawal and the Najibullah Regime It Left Behind, 1989–1992,” Historian, Volume 76, Issue 2 (2014). Link. (Unknown $$$)

Rhodante Ahlers et al., “Ambitious development on fragile foundations: Criticalities of current large dam construction in Afghanistan,” Geoforum, Volume 54 (July 2014). Link. ($19.95)

Julien Mercille, “Beyond Swat: history, society and economy along the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier,” Central Asian Survey, Volume 33, Issue 1 (2014). Link. ($39.00)

Sumitha Narayanan Kutty, “Iran’s Continuing Interests in Afghanistan,” The Washington Quarterly, Volume 37, Issue 2 (2014). Link. ($39.00)

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, “Informal Federalism: Self-Governance and Power Sharing in Afghanistan,” Publius, Volume 44, Issue 2 (2014). Link. (One day rental for $38.00)

Eric Jardine & Simon Palamar, “Numerous, Capable, and Well-Funded Rebels: Insurgent Military Effectiveness and Deadly Attacks in Afghanistan,” Terrorism and Political Violence (May 2014). Link. ($39.00)

Zubaidullo Ubaidulloev, “Afghanistan-Tajikistan Relations: Past and Present,” Asia-Pacific Review, Volume 21, Issue 1 (2014). Link. ($39.00)

As you can see, most of the articles cost nearly $40, and one absurdly wants to charge $38 for you to “rent” the article for 24 hours, an amount of money with which you could buy two books to keep forever. I will avoid a discussion of the ethics and economics of the academic publishing industry – as well as side-stepping the concerns of the scholars who produce this research. Instead, I’ll write about how to get these articles without paying for them. I won’t be paying $40 for an article that I may find is not useful for a number of possible reasons. Even if I know the article is good and I need it, I won’t be spending the money.

If you are at a university or a government institution with subscription access then getting these articles is not a problem. But if you aren’t, how can you get these articles? Here’s what to do:

1. First, simply google the article. The article may be posted online elsewhere as a service to those without subscription access.

2. Search for an earlier version. The author may have a draft posted online. Also, the article may be online as an earlier conference paper.

3. Do you know a university student at work or elsewhere? Ask them to grab the article for you. If they are at a large western university, then they will likely have access. Interns usually have this online access.

4. Ask for a copy on Twitter or Facebook (“Anybody have access to Article X?”). This usually works. People are helpful.

5. Finally, send an email to the author and ask for a PDF. They are usually glad to send you a copy (they get no share of revenue from the publishers). Of course, there are some professors who ignore emails from their own grad students, so there are no guarantees of a response…

There is some great analysis out there, you just sometimes need to work a bit to get your hands on it.



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Resumed Operations

The Afghanistan Analyst website is resuming activity. This site is the product of countless hours of work, compensated not in money, but in satisfaction in providing a useful resource for others. Despite lying dormant for nearly two years, this site continues to draw over 2,000 visitors per month who are searching for information about Afghanistan. The user base for this site exists, and we are now going to resume providing content for that user base.

The Afghanistan Analyst fills a specific niche among the many websites, weblogs, and organizations dedicated to Afghanistan. We do not conduct field research like AREU, provide daily analysis like AAN, or cover daily news like Colin Cookman’s outstanding Pakistan-Afghanistan Update. Instead, the Afghanistan Analyst helps to identify resources for researchers, scholars, and other academic-minded individuals to locate scholarly publications, documentation of field research, and other useful information relating to Afghanistan. This site’s audience is not policymakers, but rather the researchers and academics who do the difficult work of expanding knowledge and understanding of Afghanistan and who, hopefully, may go on to inform policymakers.

In the weeks ahead, existing resources on this site will be reviewed to remove or update broken hyperlinks. Newly published work will be featured in this blog. Newly located (but existing) work will be added to the site as it is found.

Recommendations are appreciated. If you have a forthcoming book, peer-reviewed journal article, or substantial research that is appropriate for inclusion, please let us know. If you are aware of an online resource that is of use to this site’s visitors, please let us know.

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Reduced Operations at The Afghanistan Analyst

As of now, most of the resources on this website will no longer be updated. Working on this website from 2006-2013 was enabled by a grad student lifestyle. But I have much less free time to dedicate to unpaid work at the moment (or rather, my free time needs to be dedicated towards activities that may lead to employment). However, I hope to find time to update the annual bibliography, and the Pashto resources and Afghanistan Law resources may be updated by their authors.

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Updates to the website

Updates to this website are ongoing. We continually add new links as they are found, or as people emails their requests for a link to be added.

However, the next editions of our bibliographies will be delayed due to our time commitments outside of this (volunteer-run) website.

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