Thirty Years of Conflict: Drivers of Anti-Government Mobilisation in Afghanistan 1978-2011

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Executive Summary

The literature concerning the last 30 years of war in Afghanistan has over the last few years reached such a critical mass that it is now possible to identify structural factors in Afghan history that contributed to the various conflicts and have been its signal feature from 1978 onward. The state-building model borrowed from the neighbouring British and Tsarist empires in the late 19th century contained the seeds of later trouble, chiefly in the form of rural-urban friction that gained substantial force with the spread of modernity to rural Afghanistan starting in the 1950s. Following the Khalqi regime’s all-out assault on rural conservatism in 1978-79, this friction ignited into large-scale collective action by a variety of localised opposition groups, including political organisations, clerical networks, and Pakistani military intelligence, as well as the intelligence services of several other countries.