Thomas Barfield leads panel on establishing political legitimacy in Afghanistan

For a great event summary and to watch a video of Thomas Barfield’s panel at The Wilson Center last week, please visit their site.

The panel convened to discuss how political legitimacy can be established in Afghanistan. According to the event summary, Barfield identified key “half-truths” about Afghanistan that have mis-informed foreign policy in recent years:

  • One is that the country has never been conquered by outsiders. (Barfield clarifies that the entire country has not been conquered, but desirable regions, particularly urban centers, have not fared so well)
  • The second is that Afghanistan is “a land of unending insurgencies.” (Barfield asserts that Afghanistan had no insurgencies until the first Anglo-Afghan war)
  • The third is that Afghan rulers gain legitimacy through the approval of loya jirgas—large gatherings of political and tribal leaders and other important figures in Afghan society (Barfield noted that Afghanistan leaders traditionally don’t seek “the consent of the governed.” Instead he say leadership credentials are proven by “showing you’re a ruler, not by asking to be a ruler.”)

Watch the video and then grab a copy of Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History to learn more.