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Governance and Militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

June 30, 2011, 8:54 p.m.


Governance and Militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a report published by CSIS looking at the role of service provision and its link wiht militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The report proposes the idea that by providing better governance and services, whether through the national government or by other means through civil society and international aid organziations, the advantages militants currently have would be diminished.  The report looks at ways in which a transition can be made from a mainly centraliezd to a increase in decentralization in each country in the hopes that it will result in better governance and increased responsiveness from the government.  The researchers conducted 250 interviews in 16 cities and regions within Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with an extensive literature review. 

The CSIS Program on Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation (C3), formerly the PCR Project, has studied the link between the rise of nonstate armed groups (or militants, for the sake of simplicity) and the quality of local governance in Afghanistan and Pakistan: whether a link exists and, if so, what the United States can do about it, if anything. This research, based on more than 250 field interviews and an extensive review of published literature, found that most militant groups do not rely on governance and service provision to gain access to areas or populations that are operationally or strategically useful to them; instead, they use intimidation or personal connections such as tribal or kinship networks. Some groups do exploit grievances related to weak or corrupt governance (e.g., recruiting victims of police extortion), and a subset of those groups offer security, justice, education, disaster assistance, or (very rarely) health care in an effort to win the support and protection of a community.

These findings suggest it might be possible to crowd out militants’ limited gains by improving local governance from any non-militant source—the state, tribal or traditional institutions, hybrid (formal–informal) systems, civil society, the private sector, or international donors—as long as the benefits of those services accrue to participating communities in real terms. In Afghanistan, the United States can play a key role in that effort by helping to define and promulgate a clearly demarcated governance agenda for international and Afghan efforts to foster stability, and adjusting U.S. policies to match that modest agenda. The United States can do much less to improve subnational governance in Pakistan directly, but by maintaining official engagement through both military and civilian channels, it can help keep reformers and moderates within Pakistan from becoming marginalized, and thereby offer indirect support to Pakistani efforts to improve and reform governance.


  • The Afghanistan analysis focused on the disconnects among constitutional design, institutional capacity, and de facto authority, and reviewed national and international efforts to redress those disconnects, particularly the Sub-National Governance Policy (SNGP) and the civilian components of the counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign.

  • The Pakistan analysis focused on the relationships among state weakness, regional insecurity, and the rise of militancy, and reviewed ongoing efforts to reform subnational governance, particularly the devolution of powers under the 18th Amendment to the constitution and the Local Governance Ordinance (LGO) of 2001, which lapsed in early 2010.


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