For over ten years, policy gurus have argued over ideal methods to counter security and development problems in Afghanistan. As the insurgency escalated in the countryside, stability approaches evolved to an extensive focus on village-based, grassroots initiatives. Many of the gurus championing this approach used the Musahiban era (1929 to 1978) in Afghanistan as a historical framework where central rulers recognized the importance of local rule and devolved security and governance from the center to the periphery supporting locally based tribal institutions, granting levels of autonomy and local sovereignty in exchange for acquiescence and stability. While the model is a useful historical reminder at best, to how the Afghan government practiced state building, it is a fundamentally flawed example for current practitioners to base their stability operations. I offer three reasons why this model is flawed, focusing on structural variables such as norms, institutions, and agency. In addition, I propose that US trust in misconstrued history suggests a deficiency of historical and cultural knowledge regarding areas of complex operations and presents a dilemma for engaging in future foreign policy endeavors.

“A Model for Stability? The Musahiban Dynasty in Afghanistan,” paper presented at Mid-west Political Science Association, Chicago, April 2014.