Incremental Peace in Afghanistan
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What does Afghanistan’s political history reveal about possible pathways to a more peaceful future, such as the creation of space for non-violent political opposition?
The lack of legitimate space for dissent has been a persistent driver of violent resistance in Afghanistan. A predominant political culture has evolved of power concentrated centrally in a single ruler who sets policy and distributes resources leaving no room for non- violent opposition.
Leaders have struggled to exert authority nationwide, however, and in practice have had to accommodate regional rivals through de facto provincial autonomy to avoid insurrection. Tackling conflict today requires both strengthening existing governance structures and creating a political system that can incorporate insurgents peacefully. Regional devolution of power could alleviate pressure on the centre, but would still leave the core problem of how to introduce effective opposition politics.
An emerging political dynamic with potential to break this enduring deadlock may be found in Afghanistan’s growing young population, who increasingly see political participation as a right rather than a privilege and are making demands for more meaningful representation.