Afghanistan has been the scene of enduring violent conflict for three decades, yet the sources of its conflict date back to the establishment of the Afghan state in the eighteenth century. The American-led military intervention in October 2001 ended the extremist Taliban rule in the torn country and facilitated democratic elections but did not terminate the Afghan turmoil and the threat of its regional spillover effects. Six years after the invasion, hopes for renovation, peace, and stability are entwined with great challenges and fears of continuing insecurity. Alongside efforts to advance social, economic, and security reforms, the Afghan government, assisted by international forces, faces escalating insurgency by Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. This complex and dangerous situation questions the possibility of imminent peace and stable democracy in a country where violence and enduring conflict have been instrumental throughout its history.

The central thesis of this essay is that to understand the Afghan conflict we must take into account a variety of interrelated factors from the global, regional, and internal cycles of analysis, none of which can be isolated or seen as satisfactory in itself. More specifically, it is contended here that efforts made by external powers to manage ethnic conflicts and establish a nation-building process in foreign countries should be based on broad consent of the parties involved.

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