Government and Politics
SINCE 1973 AFGHAN SOCIETY has experienced a series of shocks which hasshattered its political institutions, devastated the physical infrastructuresupporting its economy, decimated and scattered its population, and left open toquestion its prospects for government and even survival as a national community.There is no longer a monarchy presiding over a confederacy of Pushtun tribes andruling over several culturally distinct minority communities. Politicalusurpation, foreign occupation, war and civil war have left Afghanistan inchaos, with a leadership incapable, so far, of initiating a process of recovery.
Intimately linked to Afghanistan's tragedy was the Soviet Union's collapse atthe end of 1991. Its demise released the mostly Muslim peoples of Central Asiafrom the captivity of Cold War politics. Their governments have been freed fromproxy service in superpower causes. European imperialist manipulation of theregion which had shaped its politics since the early nineteenth century hadsuddenly come to an end.
Afghans now confront neighbors who are awakening to new opportunities.Afghans struggle with the irony that the anarchy which has followed theirsuccessful defiance of a superpower could lead to their dissolution as a nation.Interference by neighbors became a major factor in Afghan politics before theSoviet military withdrawal. It became profoundly destabilizing with the collapseof the Kabul Marxist regime in 1992.
Afghanistan's vulnerability to fragmentation has since become acute. Itsinternal rivalries have become increasingly identified with regional communitieswhich it shares with neighboring nations. Every kilometer of its borders is aproduct of British or tsarist Russian imperial policy. The writ of those greatpowers having dissolved, such historical artifacts could also disappear in a newera of regional tumult and change. This chapter will focus on the forces andevents which have led to Afghanistan's break with its past leaving it exposed toa profoundly uncertain future.
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