Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Root Causes of Conflict in Afghanistan

According to the recent studies eight out of 10 of the world’s poorest countries are suffering, or have recently suffered, from large scale violent conflict. Wars in these countries have heavy human, economic, political and social costs and are a major cause of poverty and underdevelopment. Afghanistan as a developing country is no exception and it is faced with the same challenges.
The Cultural Dimension of War
Many groups of people who fight together in the country assume themselves as belonging to a common culture (ethnic or religious), and part of the reason that they are fighting is to be able to maintain their cultural autonomy. Some may hold that for this reason; there is a tendency to attribute wars to “primordial” ethnic passions, which make them seem intractable. However, this view is not correct, because it diverts our attention from the underlying economic and political factors contributing to conflict in the country. Indeed a person’s culture is partly inherited. It is also constructed and chosen.  Further, in wars, as we have repeated experienced, political leaders deliberately “rework historical memories” to engender or strengthen this identity in the competition for power and resources. For example the emphasis on Muslim consciousness by the Taliban and others.
Economic Factors which predispose to war
There are different perspectives about explaining intra-state wars, based on factors related to group motivation, private motivation, failure of the social contract, and environmental degradation. However, the failure of social contract may be the most relevant one in the context of Afghanis. Based on this perspective, since intra-state wars mainly consist of fighting between groups, group motives, resentments, and ambitions provide motivation for war. These groups may be divided along cultural or religious lines, by geography, or by class. As such, we have experience all these forms in our country and have been paying their expensive costs for more than four decades in our country. What has changed the potentials of group difference worth fighting for, however, is that, there are other important differences between groups, particularly in the distribution and exercise of political and economic power in Afghanistan. It has led the relatively deprived groups to redress. And since political redress either has not been possible or there have not been enough political will to political redress in the Afghan government, they have resorted to war in the past, exits currently in the country and it is likely to happen in the future.
Although this hypotheses may not be able to solely explain all conflicts in Afghanistan, it does identify factors likely to predispose groups to conflict. It is clear as crystal that some explanations hold in some situations and not in others, but one factor that different studies have found to be important is a history of conflict. According to the findings of ethnic group conflicts in Afghanistan, this is because the same structural factors that predisposed to war initially often continue, and because mobilizing people by calling on group memories is more effective if there is a history of conflict.
Policies to reduce the likelihood of war
Different research conducted in the developing countries, including Afghanistan, suggest some important policy conclusions for conflict-prone countries. Policies to tackle poverty and environmental degradation would decrees the likelihood of war, as well as being critical development objectives. Decreasing large horizontal inequalities is essential to eradicate a major source of conflict. Policies that eliminate private incentives to fight, especially once conflict is under way, are also needed to be put in place and well implemented. Above all, there is a requirement to secure inclusive government—from political, economic, and social perspectives—and a affluent economy so that all major groups and most individuals gain from participation in the normal economy. It is an issue that neither in the past nor during the presence of the international community from 2001 to the present has been ensured in Afghanistan.
From a political perspective, inclusive government is not simply a matter of democracy; majority based democracy can lead to oppression of minorities as it is again the case for Afghanistan. Conflict is greatest in semi-democracies or governments in transition and least among established democracies and authoritarian regimes. One of the critical issues that shall be considered in the context of Afghanistan is that democratic institutions must be inclusive at all levels—for example, voting systems should ensure that all major groups are represented in government.  
In addition, economic and social policies are needed to systematically reduce horizontal inequalities. Policies towards investment, employment, education, and other social services should aim at reducing imbalances and inequalities. If we conduct a simple assessment of such policies in Afghanistan, we would conclude that such policies have not contributed much to realize these objectives in Afghanistan. Although Afghanistan has developed very good policies in these areas but they have failed to ensure these objectives due to short sighted and imbalanced implementation. Further, such policies need to be introduced cautiously since action to correct horizontal inequalities has occasionally provoked conflict by the group whose privileged position is being weakened, but at the same time there is no other option to put an end to the conflict in the country. It requires a strong political will and at the same time needs honest and committed politicians to consider the prosperity of the nation supreme to the prosperity of their ethnic group prosperity.
If Afghan government is determined to put an end to the conflict in the country it shall consider short term and long term policies. The short term policies of the government should aim to change private incentives to fight include providing employment schemes and credit to young men. And the long term polices of the government should aim extending education and achieving inclusive development to enhance peace time opportunities for all Afghan citizens.