Over 2 decades of incessant warfare destroyed Afghanistan as a functioning state, fracturing its institutions and devastating its economy. In the maelstrom of incessant internecine fighting in the 1990s, the Taliban clawed its way to power and installed a medieval regime, providing stability through brutality. The Taliban regime likely would have defeated the last of the resisting warlords and continued its rule had Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda not provoked the United States into a war with the Taliban as a result of September 11, 2001 (9 -11). The swift expulsion of the Taliban and al Qaeda militants resulted in yet another regime change, but it did not ameliorate the fundamental malaise afflicting Afghanistan warlordism. Because of their power and wealth, Afghan warlords and their militias represent the greatest challenge to Afghanistan’s rehabilitation as a functioning state, but any strategy which seeks a direct confrontation with them will likely ignite a war. Ultimately, resuscitation of Afghanistan lies with the Afghan people, and government policies must be geared towards garnering their loyalty and trust. It would be a mistake to demonize the warlords, however. Without a doubt, they and their militias had a hand in the ruination of Afghanistan, but they are also regarded as patriots and providers of security and livelihood. One must recognize that xenophobia, regionalism, and distrust of centralized authority are entrenched in Afghan society. It therefore follows that the warlords will attempt to safeguard their powerbase by maintaining a well-armed militia, profiting from the opium market, and preserving the allegiance of their constituents. President Hamid Karzai certainly recognizes the dynamic tensions keeping Afghanistan intact but could just as quickly tear it asunder if he miscalculates. In this sense, it would be more prudent to view each warlord as a latent insurgent rather than a mere nuisance to the central government. Recognizing warlordism as Afghanistan’s salient challenge requires no radical shift in strategy. For the most part, the resources are in place; they simply need a shift in emphasis. This monograph proposes a slight shift in coalition strategy, placing greater stress on three approaches: (1) initiating a sophisticated public awareness campaign to win the war of ideas; (2) weaning Afghan society off the opium market; and (3) ending the culture of warlordism without sparking an insurgency. The public awareness campaign must be an open and public enterprise, and should not carry any hint of subterfuge. In this nation of Madison Avenue and Hollywood certainly, the various information media have no qualms with unabashedly influencing American cultural behavior, so marketing ideas in support of policy objectives would be no great leap. A sophisticated public awareness campaign requires the marrying of marketing experts with the expatriate Afghan artists in order to entertain Afghan citizens first, and foremost, then inform and persuade them, as well as rebut adversarial propaganda. Once firmly established in the Afghan society, the media can be adapted to address any variety of issues Islamic extremism, the opium trade, warlord oppression, and the virtues of the Afghan National Army.
Politics-Social-Sciences, Politics-Government, Specific-Topics, Political-Freedom,