Publication Announcement - CSG Paper: Non-State Security Providers and Political Formation in Afghanistan By: Antoine Vandemoortele | Publications | Mar 4, 2016

The Centre for Security Governance has just published its latest CSG Paper, “Non-State Security Providers and Political Formation in Afghanistan” written by Deedee Derksen.This is the first of four papers produced as part of the CSG’s project on Non-State Security Providers and Political Formation in Conflict-Affected States. The project was made possible by generous financial support from the Gerda Henkel Foundation.


This paper examines how diverse non-state security providers – warlords, tribal leaders and local strongmen – affect the process of state formation and statebuilding in Afghanistan. Its analysis of the nature and scope of international engagement of informal security actors in northeast and southwest Afghanistan suggests that external donors have not primarily promoted liberal peace, but rather a hybrid political order. The support of international actors has allowed non-state security actors to operate without the consent of communities, a situation in stark contrast, for instance, to Afghan tribal leadership in the past, whose authority and survival was predicated on the support of community constituencies. This practice of international state builders has thus impeded the development of a social contract and prevented non-state actors from winning the legitimacy that could potentially make their governance a viable alternative to the centralized state. Considering the adverse effects that international donor support for non-state security providers has had in Afghanistan, the paper argues that a hands-off, “do no harm” approach from international actors with regard to non-state security providers would increase stability more than its current form of engagement.


The project considers new aspects of the relationship between security and development by examining how the presence of non-state security providers affects political development in conflict-affected societies. The established “security-development nexus” maintains that security and development are mutually reinforcing, and conversely that insecurity and underdevelopment are mutually reinforcing. While these links are of obvious importance, more recent work suggests two other relationships of equal significance: between insecurity and development insofar as violent conflict may fuel political formation; and between underdevelopment and security insofar as supposedly “underdeveloped” and conflict-affected areas may feature unique and unconventional security structures. The project has explored these largely uncharted relationships by examining processes of political formation in societies that host a diverse array of non-state security providers and assessing the effects of the latter on processes of state formation, deliberate state-building interventions and the emergence of unconventional governance structures. Drawing on three case studies—Afghanistan, Somalia and South Sudan—the project’s main research questions are: how does the presence of diverse nonstate security providers affect the process of state formation and state-building, and how should this shape donor state-building approaches? The overarching goal of the project is to stimulate a discourse and make initial policy recommendations on how donors can better engage non-state security structures in the context of state-building and security sector reform programs.

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