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Political Struggles in Afghanistan


Afghanistan is one of the countries in the world that have experienced a lot of instability due to numerous political struggles. The political struggles in the mountainous landlocked country in central Asia have been characterized by coups, unstable power transfers, and numerous struggles geared towards gaining the controlling power (Edwards, 2002). Over the years, the country has been led using four different governance systems, namely dictatorship, theocracy, monarchy, and communism. The current political structure in the country consists of the president, two vice presidents, the council of ministers, provincial governors, and the national assembly (Barfield, 2010).

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Afghanistan is currently under the stewardships of President Ashraf Ghani, who is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. His two deputies are Sarwar Danish and Abdul Rashid Dostum. The new constitution adopted by Afghanistan in 2004 provided a sigh of relief to the country because it introduced the necessary checks and balances for promoting democracy. The political struggles in Afghanistan develop from differences between leaders, the influence of fundamentalist Islamic militia such as the Taliban, a weak democracy, and poor implementation of the constitution as evidenced in the public displeasure over the government’s failure to end corruption.


The United States has been one of the main dominant elements in the political struggles experienced in Afghanistan through its numerous intervention measures geared towards promoting democracy and stability. Their efforts bore fruit in 2004, when the country managed to adopt a new constitution that necessitated the election of an executive president (Abirafeh, 2009). The first democratically elected president of Afghanistan was Hamid Karzai, who ruled for two consecutive five-year terms from 2004 to 2014. Under the new constitution, the county has a bicameral legislature that constitutes the House of the People, as well as the House of Elders. There is also a judiciary and the Supreme Court, whose members are elected by the president (Barfield, 2010).

The political struggles that have been experienced in Afghanistan over the years have mainly developed from the desire by leaders to change the country’s narrative of deep-rooted corruption and the illegal drug business (Abirafeh, 2009). Although President Karzai has received a lot of credit for helping the country unite during his reign, a lot of criticism has been raised with regard to his failure to change the two aforementioned elements that have dented the country’s reputation in the international community (Cavanna, 2015).

Despite the continued struggle to address the vices, the country has made positive strides in other crucial aspects that could play a major role in promoting political stability (Barfield, 2010). The country currently boasts of being among the few countries in the world that have given women leadership a lot of support through parliamentary positions. In accordance with the constitution, 28% of current parliamentarians in Afghanistan are women (Cavanna, 2015).

This has been termed as a positive move towards promoting democracy. However, events over the last couple of years threaten to drag the country back to its dark past. In 2012, Kai Eide, who was the United Nations special representative to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2010 warned that the country was at risk of going into civil war if the political leadership in the country failed to address their differences (Eide, 2012). He argued that the biggest challenge to political stability in the country was insecurity and personal rivalries between leaders.

Political legitimacy

The formation of the Northern Alliance and the invasion by Taliban forces are some of the main factors behind the political struggles experienced in Afghanistan (Edwards, 2002). The invasion by members of the Taliban government happened in 1996 during the leadership of Burhanuddin Rabbani.

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By the year 2001, the Taliban forces had taken control over 95% of Afghanistan. However, the United Nations failed to recognize them and chose to retain its work relations with the Islamic state that was by then operating in exile. The Taliban government received enormous support from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (Mills, 2007). The other remaining percentage was controlled by the Northern Alliance.

The Taliban forces worked so hard to protect their interests and operations from interference by members of the international community (Abirafeh, 2009). In 2001, the United States became a crucial element of interest in the power struggles happening in Afghanistan following the bombing attacks that took place in New York City and Washington D.C (Mills, 2007). The American government believed that the late Osama bin Laden was heavily involved in the bombing attacks, thus formally requested the Taliban government to hand him over to them. However, their refusal to cooperate prompted a coalition led by the United States to launch an attack that successfully ousted the Taliban government from power in the same year (Edwards, 2002).

The ousting of the Taliban government was an important step in the governance of the country because the United Nations convened a meeting in Germany that aimed to come up with a formula for leadership. The meeting resulted in the inauguration of the Afghanistan Interim Administration (AIA) that stayed in office for a period of six months (Abirafeh, 2009). Its mandate was to promote national reconciliation and encourage people to support initiatives geared towards promoting democracy.

The AIA was succeeded by the Afghanistan Transitional Administration (ATA) that was mandated to help the country have a constitution and hold its first democratic elections (Abirafeh, 2009). Because the country was headed to a new phase of governance, the United Nations did not take any chances with regard to the security of Afghans. They created the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) whose mandate was ensuring security across the country.

The United States, along with members of the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) sent their troops into the country and immediately embarked on a mission to kick out insurgent groups, as well as providing training to the country’s national army and national police (Abirafeh, 2009).

The current Afghan government, which is based in Kabul, operates on a power sharing agreement following the conclusion of 2014 general elections that were marred with controversy (Cavanna, 2015). This deal has compromised the political stability and security situation in Afghanistan because the government is disjointed. In the recent past, the Taliban forces have shown the intent to stage a resurgence because they feel the disjointed government presents a good opportunity for them to exert their influence across the country. Some of the country’s regions that are under the biggest threat from Taliban forces include Faryab, Takhar, Baghlan, Badakhstan, as well as the eastern and southern provinces (Cavanna, 2015).

Analysts argue that the possibility of a civil war is looming in the country owing to the fact that the political leaders are not united, thus compromising the effectiveness of any measures geared towards providing security. There is an urgent need for the government to seek foreign military aid because the Taliban is a highly organized group that has enough resources to support its operations.

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In the recent past, the government has held highly controversial talks with Pakistan, a country that many Afghans consider not trustworthy enough (Cavanna, 2015). The Taliban forces have made several subsequent attacks that have led policy makers in the country to call for the resignation of president Ghani. Although the mission launched by NATO ended in 2014, several of its troops remained in the country, but their numbers are not enough to guarantee enough security (Cavanna, 2015).

The Taliban troops seem to focus on completing their mission, especially following the killing of their leader Osama bin Laden by the United States, whom they accuse of sympathizing with the Afghan leaders. However, the Taliban has also been experiencing internal power struggles over its leadership, an element that the government can exploit to its advantage.


The political struggles in Afghanistan have largely been influenced by the activities of the Taliban forces and the process of promoting democracy. The government has received a lot of support from the United States in a bid to rebuild its economy and political structures following the prolonged war against the interests of the Taliban forces. Although the country’s economy and political stability had begun to stabilize during the reign of President Karzai, the situation has been on a downward trend under the current power sharing system of government.

The political struggles have led to the country’s continued reliance on foreign aid and continued criticism from the public for the inability by the leaders to change the narrative of corruption and insecurity. The current power struggle over Afghanistan might lead to a civil war if the negative trends being witnessed in the country are not addressed in an effective manner.


Abirafeh, L. (2009). Gender and International Aid in Afghanistan: The Politics and Effects of Intervention. New York, NY: McFarland.

Barfield, T. (2010). Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Cavanna, T.P. (2015). Hubris, Self-Interest, and America’s Failed War in Afghanistan: the Self-Sustaining Overreach. Los Angels, CA: Rowman & Littlefield.

Edwards, D.B. (2002). Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad. San Francisco, CA: University of California.

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Eide, K. (2012). Power Struggle over Afghanistan: An Inside Look at What Went Wrong, and What Can Do to Repair the Damage. New York, NY: Sky Horse Publishing Inc.

Mills, N. (2007). Karzai: The Falling American Intervention and the Struggle for Afghanistan. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

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