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Research Report

Strategy and Credible Commitment: A game theoretic analysis of the conflict in Afghanistan

Tatjana Stankovic
Copyright Date: Oct. 1, 2009
Pages: 90

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-3)
  3. (pp. 4-5)
  4. (pp. 6-16)

    Why has military force failed to quell the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan? This question has been the topic of numerous public debates; it has been widely discussed in the media, in the foreign policy and military arenas, as well as in the academic community. While some argue that the use of force has largely been ineffective due to the under-resourced military campaign, others point out that “bullets and bombs alone”¹ are unlikely to compel the insurgents to comply with the peace process set out at the Bonn Conference in 2001, and emphasize the importance of civilian efforts, such as statebuilding²,...

  5. (pp. 17-28)

    Afghanistan is a land-locked, mountainous country in south-central Asia18, bordered by the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the north, Iran in the west, China in the northeast, and Pakistan in the south and east. Its population is estimated to 28.4 million, and composed of approximately twenty ethnic groups (The World Factbook). The largest ethnic group are Pashtuns (42% of the population), followed by Tajiks (27%), Uzbeks (9%), Hazaras (9%), etc. Up till 1990s, the Pashtuns had been the traditional rulers of Afghanistan. Afghans are Muslims: 80 % of the population are Sunni, while 10-20% are Shiites....

  6. (pp. 29-54)

    The objective of this chapter is to introduce the main actors in the conflict, their goals and strategies, with special emphasis on the strategies international security actors have applied to manage threats to peace and security in Afghanistan. The discussion demonstrates that the international actors have opted for a strategy of coercion because coercion is expected to have the greatest leverage against the Taliban and its associates. Yet, coercion has failed to induce them to comply with the peace agreement. The reasons for noncompliance will be examined in the subsequent chapters.

    This chapter is divided in three sections. The first...

  7. (pp. 55-70)

    The use of force may be an effective strategy in the management of a total spoiler (Stedman 1997). An effective strategy in this thesis is a strategy that neutralizes a spoiler to the extent that it does not pose a problem to peace. In that context, the use of force can either (i) eliminate a spoiler, or (ii) induce a spoiler to comply with an imposed peace agreement. Note that the elimination of a spoiler, in the sense of its removal, is meaningful only if force is used to target the leadership that is the impetus for spoiler behaviour; if...

  8. (pp. 71-79)

    The previous chapter concludes that force, if it works at all, works at the threat stage. But can force work after the threat of force has failed and force has actually been used? The literature on economic sanctions demonstrates that coercion might work after the threat has actually been executed under the condition that (i) noncompliance was based on misperception and (ii) that misperception was corrected after coercion has been used (Hovi, Huseby and Sprinz 2005). Misperception is related to the threat assessment (the potency, credibility and contingency aspect).

    In this chapter I examine this proposition by analyzing the model...

  9. (pp. 80-82)

    The established military doctrine postulates that an insurgency cannot be defeated by conventional military operations that target the enemy’s armed forces and advocate the so-called population-centred approach because the support of a civilian population is crucial in determining the outcome of a counterinsurgency. Empirical studies on Afghanistan confirm the limitations of the traditional military approach. With this as my point of departure, I set out to explore why international security actors, in particular the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), have failed to defeat the insurgents in Afghanistan. More specifically, I set out to examine the conditions under which the...

  10. (pp. 83-88)