Post-Conflict Democratization: Warlord-Democracy Nexus in Afghanistan
States experiencing violent conflict produce instability that most often results in political disorder and the weakening of institutions and governments. In extreme cases of prolonged conflicts, local non-state power holders replace governments, providing security and missing government functions. In the case of Afghanistan, such power holders have come to be known as warlords and strongmen. This study examines Afghanistan’s 2001 post-conflict political process with a specific focus on the relationship between warlords to democracy. Overwhelmingly, the literature on warlordism has focused on the negative, where warlords and strongmen are perceived as being antithetical to democracy and state building efforts. This study argues that strongmen and warlords, who retained coercive power and legitimacy more importantly, organized and engaged with the nascent Afghan political system where their efforts have facilitated democratization. Through empirical research, this study outlines specific examples of democratic participation on the part of strongmen which has consolidated Afghanistan’s democracy.