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by Major Bryan Carroll and Dr. David A. Anderson
It is debatable whether Afghanistan meets most accepted definitions of a nation-state. Afghanistan has historically been governed by local and tribal leaders with short-lived attempts at a strong central unitary government. Whenever there has been a strong central government, it has relatively quickly been removed from power. The people of Afghanistan resent strong central government and demonstrate this through their repeated revolts and coups that follow any bold government intrusion in their tribal lives. This historical trend raises questions about the United States' current efforts to strengthen Afghanistan's central government. We assert that Afghanistan should not be governed by a central government but by a federal system with strongly autonomous areas.
We begin with a brief background discussion of the recent history of Afghani governance and ethnic demographics. The second section defines a federal system and an autonomous region, detailing their respective strengths and weaknesses as a form of governance. The third section presents case studies of the countries of Belgium, Spain, and the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. Both Belgium and Spain are examples of nation-states that are made-up of strong ethnic groups in which a federal system with autonomous regions has helped to stabilize. The region of Kurdistan within Iraq is an example of a country using an autonomous region to decrease ethnic violence and separatist movements with a positive outcome. The fourth section analyzes the country case studies focusing upon the applied strengths exhibited by these chosen political systems in relation to four prescribed assessment criteria. The study then looks for historical parallels between these federal systems of government with autonomous region(s) and the current situation in Afghanistan, as well as the current challenges facing Afghanistan that could be alleviated utilizing this alternative political system.
Major Bryan Carroll is a United States Army Infantry Officer and graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies with a Masters of Military Art and Science in Theater Operations. His undergraduate degrees in History and International Relations are from Norwich Military University. He has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and has served within Airborne and Stryker Infantry assignments. He is currently preparing to return to Afghanistan.
Dr. David A. Anderson is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer. He is now a professor of Strategic Studies at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he teaches strategic and operational studies, as well as economics. He is also an adjunct professor for Webster University, Missouri, where he teaches various international relations courses. He has published numerous articles on military and international relations related topics.