Afghanistan Analysts Network – English


March/April 2011: Three New AAN Papers

AAN admin 3 min

Since the Afghan New Year on 21 March, AAN has two new of its own papers out, both by German scholars – Lutz Rzehak on Pashtunwali and Citha D. Maass on Afghanistan’s war economy turning into a drug economy again. And thirdly, there is a new study by AAN Advisory Board member Ann Wilkens (published by FOI Stockholm) on suicide bombers in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Lutz Rzehak’s paper ‘Doing Pashto: Pashtunwali as the ideal of honourable behaviour and tribal life among the Pashtuns’ renders Pashtun academics’ perspectives on their own ethnic self-portrait which they believe distinguishes themselves from other ethnic groups in the ciuntry: their tribal spirit, a sophisticated code of honour, moral and ethical rules of behaviour, the demand for martial bravery, reasonable actions and consultation, a system of customary legal norms and not least, faith in Islam – an ideal that has been transmitted orally for centuries.

But it should not be confused with how it looks and is practiced today. The society of Afghanistan, including Pashtun society, was subject to fundamental change in almost every respect during the last three decades of war. The author argues that, as a result, today the ideals of Pashtunwali compete with other value systems which gained influence during that time. But, he adss, it seems to be clear that the transformation of its formal and organisational aspects (principles of decision making, role of elders, art of warfare, inner coherence of tribal units and others) is more obvious than changes within the system of values.

Date of publication: 21 March 2011.

This report and its executive summary can be accessed here.


Citha D. Maass’ research paper ‘Afghanistan‘s Drug Career: Evolution from a War Economy to a Drug Economy’ is study done for the Berlin-based think tank SWP in 2010, now translated for AAN and SWP by David Barnes which presents this research to a worldwide audience. It looks into the beginnings and the evolution of drug production in Afghanistan during decades-long war, with its starting point – for the commercial production of drugs – in the anti-Soviet jihad, launched in 1979, which the Afghan mujahedin led with the support of the United States and other Western and Arab states. From what the author calls a ‘drugs for weapon pipeline’, this developed into a full-scale war economy.

After the fall of the Taleban regime in 2001, the US rehabilitated the former mujahedin leaders who – as the Taleban regime had done – funded themselves to a large extent by trafficking drugs and turned into ‘war entrepreneurs’. From 2002 onwards, President Hamed Karzai co-opted them into the new political system. As a result, a new drugs economy consolidated, beginning in 2005, as the new regulative system in post-war Afghanistan, a ‘criminalised peace’, as the author argues. This ‘criminalised peace’ can be characterised as follows: An alliance of interests that links the weak Karzai government with the co-opted former warlords; the weak state institutions them with provide power, sinecure and profits. The illicit economy, based on a drugs economy, dominates the rudimentary licit economic sector.

This looms badly for a stable Afghanistan: It limits President Karzai’s room for manoeuvre to carry out urgently needed drastic reform. Realistically, Citha D. Maass concludes, it will take 20 to 30 years to weaken the drugs industry and to establish a stable peace order.

Date of publication: 21 March 2011.

This report can be accessed in full here.
Ann Wilkens, member of AAN’s Advisory Board, has published the paper ‘Suicide Bombers and Society: A Study on Suicide Bombers in Afghanistan and Pakistan’ at the Swedish Defence Analysis Institute (FOI).

Here the abstract:

During the last decade, suicide attacks have emerged as an almost daily phenomenon in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Compared to previous waves of suicide bombings in the Middle East, the attacks in this area present slightly different characteristics, situating them closer to the martyrdom ideology developed by the Iranian regime during the war against Iraq in the 1980s. Suicide bombers tend to be very young, a number of them educated in religious schools, madrassas.

This study suggests that the rapid development towards a growing number of suicide attacks, which, in spite of the indiscriminate killings of innocent victims linked to them, have been largely accepted as an instrument of asymmetrical warfare, could have been facilitated by some features in the surrounding societies. The concept of ’inversion’ is used to characterize these phenomena, which turn basic values upside down. Judicial practices which punish the victim rather than the perpetrator, as in many rape cases, serve as an example.

In both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the backdrop to the emergence of suicide bombings consists of multiple and persistent crises in the security, political and economic areas, which have stretched the social fabric close to breaking points. The sectors identified as crucially needing reform, if the descent into lawlessness is to be turned around, are education, gender relations and the judiciary.

At the same time it is concluded that the scope for successful Western interventions has been reduced, as various conflicts involving the Muslim world have been left unsolved.

Published in Stockholm, 2011.

The report can be found here.


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