Encyclopedia of Public International Law, ed. by Rüdiger Wolfrum (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
11 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2014
Date Written: March 1, 2008
Inaccessible peripheral location, rugged terrain, and relative lack of natural resources have considerably encumbered state-building in Afghanistan. For most of its modern history since 1747 it has thus be defined primarily as a ‘buffer state’ separating the Russian and British empires. In the 19th and 20th centuries the exceedingly weak central state repeatedly attempted ambitious modernisation efforts that faltered on its insufficient institutional strength and massive resistance of an extremely conservative rural population. Competing outside powers have supported opposite sides in this ongoing socio-economic struggle, with the British-Russian rivalry being replaced by the German-British competition during the two World Wars, ultimately superseded during the Cold War by the competition between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. From the 1950s until 1978 this competition was played out by peaceful means through development assistance. Following the Socialist and later Communist takeover of power in 1978/1979, Afghanistan became a major front of the Cold War. After the negotiated withdrawal of foreign troops in 1989 the conflict continued as a civil war with considerable involvement of regional powers. Since 2001 the internal conflict has abated under considerable international military and aid presence but has not been resolved.
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