International quest for local legitimacy in Afghanistan: A tower of Babel?
2013 (English)In: Small Wars & Insurgencies, ISSN 0959-2318, Vol. 24, no 2, 349-369 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
With continuing challenges facing the international presence in Afghanistan, the need to secure local legitimacy, or ‘winning heart and minds’ of the local population is gaining increasing foothold in contemporary policy-making and academic debate on international intervention. However, knowledge of how international actors in the field understand local legitimacy remains limited. The purpose of this article is to take a first cut at examining how the two leading actors of international intervention – the UN and NATO – frame the issue of local legitimacy in Afghanistan, and to evaluate the potential impact of these findings on the prospects of inter-organizational coordination in the field. Based on a qualitative comparative analysis of statements issued in UN SC Resolutions, SC Debates, and S-G Reports (2001–2011) and NATO Declarations and Opinions (2003–2011), the study finds that the UN and NATO frame the issue of local legitimacy in surprisingly similar ways. However, the framing appears problematic in terms of how it depicts the relationship between the international presence and the Afghan state and its people. To illustrate, both the UN and NATO tend to externalize the issue of local legitimacy by linking it to the strength of the Afghan state rather than to the quality and effectiveness of international assistance and furthermore do not explicitly recognize Afghan civilians to have any autonomous influence on the level of local legitimacy. Instead, civilians are only portrayed to affect the level of legitimacy indirectly as the victims of insurgent or coalition attacks. The results of the study thus indicate a lack of awareness and self-criticism within the international intervention apparatus towards the potential pitfalls of international assistance, and it signals a lack of attention paid to the agency of local Afghans, which stands the risk of jeopardizing prospects for international civil–military coordination with Afghan stakeholders.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013. Vol. 24, no 2, 349-369 p.
local legitimacy, international assistance, Afghanistan, UN, NATO, inter-organizational coordination
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Research subject Peace and Conflict Research
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-212918DOI: 10.1080/09592318.2013.778021OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-212918DiVA: diva2:679633