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Warlords, Strongman Governors, and the State in Afghanistan
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  • Cited by 17
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    This book has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

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    Murtazashvili, Jennifer 2015. Gaming the state: consequences of contracting out state building in Afghanistan. Central Asian Survey, Vol. 34, Issue. 1, p. 78.

    Murtazashvili, Jennifer B. 2016. Securing Afghanistan: from the inside out. Central Asian Survey, Vol. 35, Issue. 4, p. 572.

    Coburn, Noah 2016. Elections and the failure of democratisation: how voting has made Afghanistan less democratic from the ground up. Conflict, Security & Development, Vol. 16, Issue. 6, p. 541.

    Dirkx, Toon 2017. The Unintended Consequences of US Support on Militia Governance in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. Civil Wars, Vol. 19, Issue. 3, p. 377.

    Giustozzi, Antonio 2017. Counterinsurgency Challenge in Post-2001 Afghanistan. Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 28, Issue. 1, p. 12.

    Staniland, Paul 2017. Armed politics and the study of intrastate conflict. Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 54, Issue. 4, p. 459.

    Böhnke, Jan R. Koehler, Jan and Zürcher, Christoph M. 2017. State formation as it happens: insights from a repeated cross-sectional study in Afghanistan, 2007–2015. Conflict, Security & Development, Vol. 17, Issue. 2, p. 91.

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    Kasfir, Nelson Frerks, Georg and Terpstra, Niels 2017. Introduction: Armed Groups and Multi-layered Governance. Civil Wars, Vol. 19, Issue. 3, p. 257.

    Campbell, Susanna DiGiuseppe, Matthew and Murdie, Amanda 2018. International Development NGOs and Bureaucratic Capacity: Facilitator or Destroyer?. Political Research Quarterly, p. 106591291877294.

    Mehran, Weeda 2018. Neopatrimonialism in Afghanistan: Former Warlords, New Democratic Bureaucrats?. Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, Vol. 13, Issue. 2, p. 91.

    Ingiriis, Mohamed Haji 2018. From Al-Itihaad to Al-Shabaab: how the Ethiopian intervention and the ‘War on Terror’ exacerbated the conflict in Somalia. Third World Quarterly, p. 1.

    Biberman, Yelena 2018. Self-Defense Militias, Death Squads, and State Outsourcing of Violence in India and Turkey. Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 41, Issue. 5, p. 751.

    Ozdemir, Emrah 2018. Deteriorating Proximity between Liberal Peacebuilding and Counterinsurgency: Warlordism and Corruption in Afghanistan. Interventions, p. 1.

    Schulhofer-Wohl, Jonah 2018. Syria, Productive Antinomy, and the Study of Civil War. Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 16, Issue. 4, p. 1085.

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Book description

Warlords have come to represent enemies of peace, security, and 'good governance' in the collective intellectual imagination. This book asserts that not all warlords are created equal. Under certain conditions, some become effective governors on behalf of the state. This provocative argument is based on extensive fieldwork in Afghanistan, where Mukhopadhyay examined warlord-governors who have served as valuable exponents of the Karzai regime in its struggle to assert control over key segments of the countryside. She explores the complex ecosystems that came to constitute provincial political life after 2001 and exposes the rise of 'strongman' governance in two provinces. While this brand of governance falls far short of international expectations, its emergence reflects the reassertion of the Afghan state in material and symbolic terms that deserve our attention. This book pushes past canonical views of warlordism and state building to consider the logic of the weak state as it has arisen in challenging, conflict-ridden societies like Afghanistan.


'Mukhopadhyay brings the much abused category of 'warlord' to life in this innovative and path breaking study of regional politics in Afghanistan. It provides the previously missing analytic rigor in a comparative study of the fraught relationship of a weak state center and its unruly peripheries.'

Thomas Barfield - Professor of Anthropology, Boston University

'This is an outstanding volume not only for the courageous fieldwork on which it is based and its subsequent empirical insights, but because it provides a needed alternative to outdated notions of state building. It challenges the too often accepted idea that power equals centralization. It also takes our focus away from normative, and nominal structures to the real informal processes behind any kind of authority. Third, it once again shows that the search for political perfection may be the worst enemy of basic governance. Should be read by anyone interested in 21st century politics.'

Miguel Angel Centeno - Musgrave Professor of Sociology, Princeton University

'Warlords, Strongman Governors, and the State in Afghanistan could not be timelier. This book is among the few that take seriously the dynamic processes of state-building in Afghanistan and the resilience of its current and surprisingly resilient phase. Mukhopadhyay provides a keen analysis of how and under what conditions state authority benefits from local warlord strengths in terms of personal reputation, charisma and skill as a patron. Through extensive field research in Afghanistan, Mukhopadhyay shows how politics in Afghanistan really works, and reveals concrete and specific information on how the convergence of politics at the center and in the provinces makes the Afghan state stronger in significant ways. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary strategies of state-building generally and in this important process in this critical region.'

William Reno - Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin

'Few terms are as pejorative in common usage as 'warlord', and warlordism has been a source of great suffering in many settings. In Warlords, Strongman Governors, and the State in Afghanistan, however, Dipali Mukhopadhyay argues that Afghan warlordism has had highly variable dynamics and consequences: while some strongmen have brought suffering and instability, others have actually advanced the cause of political order in a weak state, with systematic variations in local conditions accounting for the difference. She builds her case on a foundation of richly detailed field research, with results that pose important implications for counterinsurgency, governance reform, and theories of political development. Her provocative analysis will cause both scholars and policy makers to re-examine their views on this critical topic.'

Stephen Biddle - Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, The George Washington University

'Mukhopadhyay draws on extensive field research in this study of the relationship between provincial governors and the Afghan state. Challenging the traditional view of warlords as reckless and irresponsible governors, she suggests that many have actually played a crucial role in extending the influence of the central government into rural Afghanistan.'

Source: Survival

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