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date: 27 September 2023

Afghanistan: Martial Society Without Military Rulelocked

Afghanistan: Martial Society Without Military Rulelocked

  • Amin TarziAmin TarziDirector of Middle East Studies, Marine Corps University


Since its inception as a separate political entity in 1747, Afghanistan has been embroiled in almost perpetual warfare, but it has never been ruled directly by the military. From initial expansionist military campaigns to involvement in defensive, civil, and internal consolidation campaigns, the Afghan military until the mid-19th century remained mainly a combination of tribal forces and smaller organized units. The central government, however, could only gain tenuous monopoly over the use of violence throughout the country by the end of the 19th century. The military as well as Afghan society remained largely illiterate and generally isolated from the prevailing global political and ideological trends until the middle of the 20th century.

Politicization of Afghanistan’s military began in very small numbers after World War II with Soviet-inspired communism gaining the largest foothold. Officers associated with the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan were instrumental in two successful coup d’états in the country. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, ending the country’s sovereignty and ushering a period of conflict that continues to the second decade of the 21st century in varying degrees. In 2001, the United States led an international invasion of the country, catalyzing efforts at reorganization of the smaller professional Afghan national defense forces that have remained largely apolitical and also the country’s most effective and trusted governmental institution.


  • Contentious Politics and Political Violence
  • Governance/Political Change
  • Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy
  • Political Values, Beliefs, and Ideologies

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