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The price of peace

Avoiding failure in Afghanistan means embracing its patronage politics—bribes and all

By Alex De Waal   December 2009

Afghanistan: “a political souk where buyers and sellers haggle over the going rate for renting allegiances”

When Nato concedes a draw in Afghanistan, it will be because of its failure to understand the country’s politics. But a deeper failure will lurk in the background. In the past decade the west has launched a huge experiment to build capable states in the world’s most difficult countries. Troops, technical advisers and aid budgets are the tools of choice. The experiment is said to have worked in East Timor, Kosovo and Sierra Leone; now Afghanistan, Congo and Sudan are top of the…

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