Afghanistan as a Rentier State Model: Lessons from the Collapse

G.D. Bakshi,Officer,Indian Army


The long established nation state of Afghanistan has all but collapsed. It has fragmented on ethnic fault lines. The blood-letting between the various Mujahideen militias and warlords continues unabated. Between 1980-1986, the Americans and their allies had pumped in $5 billion worth of arms into Afghanistan. In the same period, the Soviets had supplied $5.7 billion worth of arms and military equipment to their proteges. These arms are also available to the warring factions today. Thus, there are $10.7 billion worth of arms in Afghanistan. The bulk of these are in the small arms category. None of them are under any centralised government control or national authority. In fact, there are more small arms inside Afghanistan than with the combined Armies of India and Pakistan. The long-term and short-term destabilising impact of this massive infusion of Kalashnikovs is horrific and apparent. It impacts most adversely on the equilibrium systems in Central and South Asia. The collapse of a long established nation state has caused a vortex of instability and highly entropic forces in this region. The disintegration of Afghanistan provides a model of collapse of a well established Rentier State that deserves to be studied in detail for its implications.

Any attempts at making viable forecasts about the confused situation in Afghanistan would have to be based upon a study of the heuristic patterns evident in recent Afghan history.

Barnett R. Rubin is the leading American scholar and expert on Afghanistan. In his recent book (The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System), Rubin has made an incisive historical analysis that clearly identifies the pattern of state formation and collapse in recent Afghan history. Based upon this analysis, Rubin has put forward the thesis of Afghanistan as a Rentier State. This thesis is of profound significance and helps us to understand the American end game analysis for Afghanistan. Taking advantage of this end game analysis, the Pakistanis appear to have drawn up their own blueprint for the proxy conquest of Afghanistan through the instrumentality of the Taliban. Pakistan was to provide the military muscle and arms, and Saudi Arabia and a consortium of oil firms, the finances to establish a new Rentier State in Afghanistan. This effort seems to have run into serious difficulties in recent months.

The Rentier State

The political form of modernity is the territorial nation state. To be viable, a state has to exercise effective control within its territory. All states in history (whether traditional states, empires, city states and federations of towns--as classified by Anthony Giddens) included a core organisation that fought and taxed.

Today the successor entity of these loose empires, city states and town federations is the modern nation state. Tilly defines nation states as "those governing multiple, contiguous regions and their cities by means of centralised, differentiated and autonomous structures." Max Weber lists some of the characteristics of a nation state as:

(a) Compulsory association on a territorial or legal basis.

(b) An administrative and legal order subject to change by legislation.

(c) The claim to monopolise use of force.

The key feature is that established nation states have governmental systems to penetrate society and impose controls in a comprehensive manner. The state draws its economic resources by taxation of the economic activities within its borders. In tribal societies like Afghanistan, however, the state has to contend with the tribe for the loyalty of its citizens. At no time in recent history has the Afghan state been able to comprehensively penetrate the tribal society and put in place its systems of controls. Traditionally the Afghan peasant and nomadic population (over 85 per cent of the total Afghan population) has never paid taxes. As Michael Mann has pointed out, a state has to have "despotic" as well as "infrastructural" power. Infrastructural power is the capacity of the state to actually penetrate civil society and to implement logistically political decisions throughout the realm. Infrastructural power requires the apparatus for monitoring and surveillance more than for coercion. Successful development of these capacities has generally arisen out of the core state-society struggles over extraction of revenue and compliance.

Afghanistan, as per Rubin, has been a Rentier State--i.e. a state that depends on external aid (or oil revenues) rather than on the production of goods and services by its citizens. Rubin bases his argument on an analysis of Afghanistan history and geo-political conditions. Thus, only 12 per cent of Afghanistan's total land area is arable. Due to acute scarcity of water for irrigation, only half of this arable land area is cultivated each year. The Afghan economy, therefore, is a mix of agriculture and pastoralism. The produce is barely sufficient to support the Afghan population. In simple terms, Afghanistan has always lacked an indigenous economic basis for viable state formation. Traditionally, therefore, the Afghan state has been formed with the help of economic resources obtained from outside the borders of the state (e.g. in terms of loot from adjoining richer areas of India and Iran extracted by tribal conquests) or by external military and economic aid, as was provided by Britain during the "great game" period and by the Soviet Union in the post-War period. This external aid has given the Afghan state the coercive means to weld the heterogeneous tribal society together by distributing the foreign largesse and playing one tribe off against the other.

Traditionally, the struggle by states for control of tribal territories required the transformation of free tribes into tax paying peasants. Since the Afghan state was invariably dependent on revenue aid from external sources, it had little motivation to impose comprehensive control of the tribal areas and transform the tribes into tax paying peasants. The state, therefore, remained a weak Rentier State for it was critically dependent on foreign aid. To compensate for its weakness, it encouraged further fragmentation of Afghanistan's society. The crucial fact is that whenever this foreign economic and military support was withdrawn, the Afghan state collapsed and tended to fragment on ethnic and tribal lines. A brief survey of Afghan history will bear out this thesis. This historical survey will be taken up a little later in some detail. Rubin's thesis, however, is of crucial significance for it seems to be the basis of the American end game analysis for Afghanistan. Afghanistan formally entered the system of nation states after two Anglo-Afghan Wars under British suzerainty. The competing pressures of Russian and British imperial consolidation in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, made Afghanistan a natural buffer zone. The British first tried to conquer it by force but failed. They next set it up as a buffer state by granting extensive military and economic aid to its tribal rulers. Afghanistan thus entered the comity of nation states as a Rentier State. In the post-War period, the British withdrew from India. The Soviets stepped in to fill the vacuum. By the end of the 1970s, Afghanistan had become a Rentier State financed and armed by the USSR. The economic collapse of the Soviet Union preceded the collapse of this Rentier State in Afghanistan. As per the established patterns of Afghan history, Najibullah's Afghan state has fractured along ethnic and tribal fault lines.

After the Soviet withdrawl, the Americans had, for some time, lost all interest in Afghanistan. Their short-term purpose of turning Afghanistan into the Soviet Vietnam had been achieved and Afghanistan was of little strategic significance thereafter. The sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of the Central Asian States and then the discovery of huge hydrocarbon deposits there, radically transformed the situation. American and Saudi oil firms wanted assured access to the Central Asian reserves of oil and natural gas. Overnight the world was badly in need of a new overland "Silk Route" to Central Asia: a Silk Route for the smooth flow of oil and natural gas through pipelines through Afghanistan. This once again created the need for a new Rentier State in Afghanistan. Who would finance such a Rentier State? The Rubin analysis seems to suggest that tarriff revenues for the flow of oil through its territory would make a new Afghan state economically viable. No single foreign power would now be required to fund and keep afloat a heterogeneous conglomeration of feuding tribes as a unitary state forever. Oil revenues would flow in this Rentier State (like those in the Middle East Sheikhdoms). The state would be merely required to spread the oil largesse among the tribes and thus buy their loyalties in perpetuity. They would acquire a stake in preserving peace and the status quo.

What was needed to get the Central Asian oil and natural gas flowing southwards to Karachi was the establishment of a Rentier State in Afghanistan. The logic of this end game analysis was eminently reasonable. The disintegration of Afghanistan was breeding chaos and instability in inner Asia. A dangerous drug and Kalashnikov culture was spreading in the region and could prove to be a fatal contagion for the stability of all neighbouring states. It appears that at this stage Pakistan saw an opportunity to regain its lost frontline status. It offered to establish a new Rentier State in Afghanistan based upon its new instrumentality, the rabidly fundamentalist Taliban. Having failed dismally with Hekmetyar, it now put all its optional eggs in the Taliban basket. Saudi Arabia stepped in to finance the new Rentier State which (it was hoped) would subsequently survive on the tax revenues from the new "Silk Route" (oil route) to Central Asia. What we are witnessing in Afghanistan is the struggle to establish a new Rentier State. The only tragedy is that the Pakistani solution of the Taliban has turned out to be a remedy worse than the disease. The Taliban made impressive gains initially as it bought off the war-weary Pushtun tribes. The recent fighting, however, has shown its pathetic military weakness and thereby highlighted the most glaring flaw of the Rubin Rentier State analysis. The Rubin analysis only stresses foreign capital and arms aid as the precipitating factor for state formation in Afghanistan. It does not take into account the need for charismatic leadership to weld the Afghan tribes together. Such leadership proved crucial in the establishment of Afghan states in the past. Ahmad Shah Abdali (Shah Baba to the Pushtun tribes) provided this leadership. His charismatic leadership and the prospects of loot unified the diverse tribes. The one-eyed, six-foot five, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has so far not become another "Shah Baba". The only charismatic military leader to emerge from the Afghan War is Ahmad Shah Masood. But he is a Tajik and may not be acceptable to the Pushtuns. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) deliberately did not let any charismatic Pushtun military leader emerge in the anti-Soviet Jehad in Afghanistan. Their proteges were Hekmetyar and other pro-Pakistani political leaders who sat out the war in the comfortable bungalows of Peshawar. Such political leaders proved to be dismal failures amongst the highly militarised tribes of Afghanistan.

For good or ill, the Rubin thesis of Afghanistan as a Rentier State has been the guiding blueprint for all recent end game analysis of the terribly confused and chaotic situation in Afghanistan. Let us, therefore, take a deeper look at the historical validity of this theoretical model. It is this author's humble contention that the thesis is highly accurate in its insights. Its singular flaw is its total lack of emphasis on the personality factor--the emergence of a charismatic tribal leader, as one of the essential catalysts of the state formation process in Afghanistan. Secondly, the divide and fault lines in Afghanistan this time around are not just tribal. There are much deeper seated ethnic fault lines between the Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras versus the Pushtuns.


Brief Historical Survey

Landlocked Afghanistan has always been the traditional invasion route to the Indian subcontinent. All overland invasions of the subcontinent have come via the key Afghan passes of Khyber and Bolan. This saga of invasions goes back to the millennium before the birth of Christ and includes Alexander's Greek invasion, and subsequent invasions by the Huns, Sakas, Scythians, Mongols, Moghuls and Safavids. After unification by Ahmed Shah Abdali, the Afghan tribes themselves launched major military expeditions for loot and occupied large tracts of northern India. The region now included in Afghanistan was a bor-derland between Empires that ruled from India, Iran or Central Asia.

The Rentier State

Barnett R. Rubin, the foremost American expert on Afghanistan writing in his scholarly book (The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System) has put forward the thesis of Afghanistan as a "Rentier State." It is a state with no indigenous natural resources/agricultural base that could sustain state formation. Inevitably national consolidation in Afghanistan has occurred with massive economic and military aid from external powers. The Rentier State so installed has exercised minimal control over the tribes by distributing the economic largesse and weapons. The state has never been able to fully penetrate the fragmented tribal society in Afghanistan in any comprehensive manner and draw up a sustainable structure for tax collection/local government.

The region that comprises Afghanistan was the borderland between Empires that ruled from India, Iran and Central Asia. Its history, therefore, represents the web and flow of these Empires. In the Mauryan period, Afghanistan was an outpost of the Indian Empire and a prime centre for Buddhist art and thought. (The Gandhara school which resulted from a fusion of Indo-Greek styles was based in Afghanistan). Afghanistan even finds mention in the earlier Mahabharata epic, once again as Gandhara, and its ruling families are depicted as playing a very active role in the politics of the subcontinent in that ancient period.

(a) Rentier Economy

Afghanistan, however, has always been a wasteland and ideal buffer between Empires. Only 12 per cent of Afghanistan's total land area is arable. The main problem is the scarcity of water. Because of this, only half of the total arable area is cultivated each year. The local people had constructed a system of open and under ground canals (called karez in Pushto). This sufficed to produce food grains that could barely sustain the local population through a barter system between its nomads (who herded cattle, sheep, goats and horses) and the peasants of the valleys who grew the food grains. The nomads live in the hill pastures and are called "Nang Pushtuns." The peasants who live in the valleys are called "Qualang Pushtuns." The nomadic tribes have almost never been brought under the control of any regime in Afghanistan. Most nation states draw their national income from taxation of the local population. Thus, at the time of the French Revolution in 1789, 85 per cent of that country's population comprised peasants. Agriculture accounted for 60 per cent of production. The French peasants bore the brunt of the tax burden. In 1978, Afghanistan also had 85 per cent of the population as peasants or nomads and agriculture accounted for 60 per cent of the national produce. But the Afghan peasants paid virtually no taxes.

(b) The Silk Route Trade

Historically the Afghan economy was sustained largely by its primitive agriculture and pastoral activities and by taxes levied on the Silk Route trade that passed through Afghanistan.

The Destruction of the Afghan Economy

The conquest of this region by the Mongol Armies of the dreaded Ghenghiz Khan in the 13th century proved to be a historical disaster for Afghanistan. The Mongols comprehensively destroyed the Afghan irrigation system and the flourishing cities of Central Asia which were the centres of trade and commerce between Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The Mongol conquests and depredation seriously dislocated the trade and commerce activities in inner Asia. Subsequently, the opening of the sea route between Europe and Asia in the 15th century, sent this region into a steep historical decline. The Silk Route atrophied. Deprived of its toll revenues, Afghanistan could no longer be an economically viable state. Most of its population reverted to nomadism thereafter.

16th Century: Gun Powder Empires

The decline of the Mongols was followed by the rise of the Turco-Mongol Gun Powder Empires. These militarised tribes exploited the Chinese invention of gun powder and the Mongol invention of the stirrup to bring forth very efficient and mobile Armies. The Ottomans, the Safavids, the Shayabanid Uzbeks and the Moghuls fought for the domination and control of the western and inner Asian landmass. The Moghuls ultimately conquered Afghanistan and later succeeded in establishing a mighty Empire in the Indian subcontinent that included Afghanistan as an outlying province.

18th Century: Rise of Pushtuns

The Turco-Mongol tribes (the Safavids and the Moghuls) imposed their militarised tribal organisational models on to the Pushtun tribes of Afghanistan. The Pushtun tribal Lashkars (cavalry) was strengthened by years of service to the Moghuls and later the Safavids. Once the Turco-Mongol tribes declined in the 18th century, however, a group of Pushtun tribes (the Abdalis, the Ghilzai and their sub-tribes the Durranis, Saddozais, Muhammadzais and Hotakis) founded their own Empire. This Afghan state drew its economic resources from conquest and loot of the surrounding richer areas, especially in India. Like other tribal conquest Empires this proved unstable. Once the charismatic leader (Ahmad Shah Abdali) passed from the scene and loot declined, this tribal state split up into feuding tribes once again.

Ahmad Shah Abdali

The first state consolidation in Afghanistan, therefore, was effected by Ahmad Khan (later Ahmad Shah Abdali). The Safavid rulers of Iran had structured the Abdali and Ghilzai tribes into large scale military organisations. The Abdalis were part of the Turkic Nadir Shah's Afghan Armies that ranged as far as Delhi and brought about the destruction of the Mughal Empire in India. After the assassination of Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah was chosen as the leader of the Abdali tribe. To his tremendous good fortune, he was able to loot a caravan transporting Nadir Shah's taxes back to Iran. This economic windfall financed the initial alliances and military efforts of Ahmad Shah. Thus, even the first Afghan state in recent history was raised with external economic resources. Ahmad Shah later unified all the Pushtun tribes. The combination of a highly charismatic military leader and the sharing of loot cemented group feelings and overcame tribal rivalry. Over three-fourths of this state's income came from conquests and loot in India, mainly in Punjab and Kashmir provinces. Because he extracted wealth from external sources, Ahmad Shah did not face the problem of how to extract resources from the tribes on whom he depended for military power.

Disintegration of Ahmad Shah's Empire

As per Ibn Khaldun's model, the tribal conquest of Ahmad Shah began to disintegrate after the death of the charismatic leader. The Sikh Empire of Ranjit Singh consolidated its hold in Punjab and captured Peshawar. Some of Ranjit Singh's Generals like Hari Singh Nalwa and Gulab Singh reached as far as Jalalabad. The loss of the Indian territories deprived the Saddozai Pushtun rulers of the wealth which had enabled them to cement their tribal coalition. Tribal warfare split the Afghan Kingdom into several smaller states.

Historical Pattern

This established the historical pattern which has since replicated itself several times in Afghanistan. The loss of revenue from outside the territory of Afghanistan has led to a loss of state control and the emergence of regional power centres. This pattern persisted till 1992 when Najibullah fell as a result of the loss of Soviet economic and military support which led to ethnic fragmentation between the Pushtun and Farsiwan tribes and the virtual disintegration of Afghanistan.

Formation of the Modern Afghan State

Afghanistan entered the Europe-centred system of modern nation states in the 19th century. This was an outgrowth of the rise of British imperial power in the Indian subcontinent and the Russian conquest of Central Asia. Afghanistan now became a neutral buffer state between the British and Russian Empires. This began the era of the great game.

The Anglo-Afghan Wars

Alarmed by the perceived Russian thrust towards the warm water ports of Iran and the Makran coast, the British embarked upon a forward policy to check the Russian advance well ahead of the Indian colonial possessions. This was a peak period of British geo-political concern in Afghanistan.

(a) First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42)

This was launched by the British for the outright conquest of Afghanistan. It proved to be a military disaster. This enabled Dost Mohammad, the Afghan ruler, to resume his rule. Dost Mohammad received external aid from both British India and Iran. The British provided weapons in appreciation of his neutrality in the Indian uprising of 1857-59. Dost Mohammad now consolidated his hold by playing one tribe off against the other and established a nation state with external economic and military aid.

(b) Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80)

This represents another era of peak British security concern about Afghanistan. The British launched a second military invasion which resulted in a partial victory for the Afghans who maintained their internal sovereignty but ceded their foreign relations to the British. Amir Abdul Rehman Khan seized the Afghan throne after the departure of the British troops.

Thus, Afghanistan formally entered the state system under British suzerainty--as a buffer state against Russia which emerged after the two Anglo-Afghan Wars. The British lavished weapons and cash on Amir Abdul Rehman Khan (1881-1901). Rehman Khan used these coercive resources to establish the basic state structure that endured till the fall of Najibullah in 1992. The essential contours of this state structure have basically involved a Pushtun ruler using external resources to reign over an ethnically heterogeneous society while manipulating the social segmentation to weaken the tribal societies' resistance to his rule.

Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919)

The significantly high level of British security concern in Afghanistan is highlighted by their launching of the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919. Rehman's grandson Amanullah Khan tried to exploit the weakened condition of the British and Russians ofter World War I. He announced independence for his country. This led to the brief Third Anglo-Afghan War. However, unlike Turkey's Kemal Attaturk, or Reza Shah of Iran, he could not transform Afghanistan into a modern autocracy. Afghanistan lacked any national organisation/parties or institutions (like the Indian National Congress) and had no articulate/educated middle class. Amanullah, the moderniser, was overthrown by a tribal rebellion. Subsequently, anarchy broke out in Afghanistan. Nadir Khan (one of the Generals of Amanullah Khan) then established Pushtun rule in Kabul. Nadir Khan was appointed Shah in Kabul and the reign of the Musahitan dynasty commenced in 1929. This was to last till 1978. Nadir Khan was succeeded in 1933 by Zahir Shah. Throughout World War II, the British kept on anticipating an Axis threat to their Indian possessions via Afghanistan. The Japanese invasion, however, came via Burma and belied all geo-political formulations of the heartland theorists. The British Indian Army had been facing the wrong strategic direction and training for a war that never came about. This was primarily because the Soviet Union and Britain became allies in World War II. The very rationale of the great game was thus negated.

Post-Colonial Afghanistan

The end of the British Empire saw the partition of India and Pakistan. Pakistan and Russia (USSR) became the two main neighbours of Afghanistan. The USSR then was a superpower and regarded Afghanistan as being very much in her legitimate sphere of influence. In 1973, King Zahir Shah was deposed by his uncle Mohammed Daoud Khan, who appointed himself President, and Zahir Shah was exiled to Rome. The British external support was now largely replaced by Soviet economic and military aid. Thus, between 1955-1978, the USSR provided Afghanistan $1.25 billion in economic aid and approximately $1.27 billion in military aid. The Rentier State pattern continued albiet with changed external patrons.

Pattern Analysis

At this stage it would be essential to pause and define the heuristic patterns that emerge from this brief historical survey. These are summarised below:

(a) Rentier State

Only 12 per cent of the land area of Afghanistan is arable. This problem is further compounded by a lack of water for irrigation. Thus, Afghanistan has traditionally lacked a viable economic basis for nationhood. Economic resources for nation building have traditionally been provided by external sources to include:

(i) Taxation of caravans plying the Silk Route.

(ii) Loot from tribal conquest of richer surrounding areas in India and Iran.

(iii) Large scale external military and economic aid to prop up a chosen regime in Afghanistan. In the great game period, this was provided by the British. In the post-War period, the Soviet Union stepped in to impose and prop up regimes of its choice.

(b) Tribe vs State

The tribe predates the state as an anthropological and political phenomenon. The state (including the foreign backed Rentier State) was never able to penetrate the Afghan society in any comprehensive manner. Though 85 per cent of the Afghan population comprised peasants and nomads and 60 per cent of the state's product was from agriculture, the peasants/nomads hardly ever paid any taxes. At best, the Afghan state was able to tax the Qualang Afghan peasants of the river valleys. The Nang Pushtuns, the nomads of the hill regions, were always beyond the pale of the Afghan state.

The Patterns of Change

Keeping these constant factors as the backdrop, the historic pattern of state formation and collapse in Afghanistan has conformed to the following model:

(a) A charismatic military leader uniting the tribes with promises of loot/based on coercive power acquired as a result of foreign military and economic aid.

(b) Generally this has involved a Pushtun ruler using external resources to reign over an ethnically heterogeneous society, while manipulating the social segmentation to weaken the tribal societies' resistance to his rule.

(c) The demise of the charismatic leader and/or more usually the end of foreign economic aid/external resources has led to a break up of the Afghan state along ethnic and tribal fault lines.

This pattern is visible through out the period from 1747 (when Ahmad Shah Abdali, the charismatic Shah Baba) established the first unified Afghan state in recent history, to the latest example of Soviet backed state formation and disintegration in Afghanistan that occurred in 1992 with the fall of Najibullah. This brief survey of Afghan history, therefore, serves to crystallise the pattern of Rentier State formation and collapse in Afghanistan. This pattern serves as a useful tool for making hueristic forecasts/prognostications about the future course of events in Afghanistan.

Shortcomings in the Rubin Thesis

Barnett R. Rubin's analysis of Afghanistan as a Rentier State is, therefore, well substantiated by history. It has, in all probability, guided the American formulation of an end game analysis for the chaotic situation in Afghanistan. The establishment of a new Rentier State in Afghanistan under the rabidly fundamentalist Taliban would facilitate the reopening of the historic Silk Route to Central Asia--this time for the flow of oil and natural gas. This outflow of oil would provide steady tax/tarrif/revenue to make the new Afghan Rentier State economically viable. It was apparently in pursuit of such a Rentier State formation that Pakistan's erstwhile Interior Minister Nasirullah Babar raised the Taliban militia from the refugee Madrasas. The Saudis and the American oil firms (primarily UNOCOL) enthusiastically came forward to bankroll this new Rentier State. Heavy cash inflows helped to buy off all Pushtun opposition and the Taliban had a free run. It never had to engage in any decisive/serious combat. By September 1996, it had captured Kabul. It had, through liberal cash inflows, been able to engender a Pushtun consolidation. The Taliban, however, ran into trouble in spring 1997. The Rubin State thesis has floundered on the following counts:

(a) Ethnic Fault Lines

Even as it collapsed, the Parcham Communist regime in Kabul had unleashed a decisive ethnic cleavage between the Pushtuns and the Farsiwans (the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, etc). This ethnic divide in Afghanistan has proved to be a serious fault line that has permanently fractured the Afghan nation state. The ethnic hostility and divide now is too bitter and deep. In spring 1997, the Taliban tried to buy its way across the ethnic fault lines. It spent over $200 million to bribe the disgranted Pehelwan Generals of the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam. For a time it succeeded brilliantly and the Taliban flew into Mazar-I-Sharif in triumph. Their triumph was tragically short-lived. No amount of money can cement ethnic hatred. The triumphalist antics of the Taliban infuriated the Uzbek/Shia population. There was a spontaneous rebellion which cruelly highlighted the pathetic military weakness of the Taliban. The Tajiks of Masood struck out from Panjshir and are now within gun range of Kabul.

(b) Lack of Charismatic Leadership

Pakistan's ISI clearly lacked the strategic vision to carry out a long range end game analysis of its intervention in Afghanistan. To get into Afghanistan has always been easy. Getting out unscathed is the more difficult part. The ISI had very deliberately set out to downplay the military leaders of the Mujahideen tribes fighting the Soviets inside Afghanistan. To pursue its own long-term agenda of establishing a client regime in Kabul, it deliberately foisted a group of pro-Pakistan political leaders like Hekmetyar, Sayyaf and Mojaddedi, who sat out the war in the confortable bungalows of Peshawar. These leaders lacked the military expertise to lead the final phase of the guerrilla struggle in Afghanistan. They proved most inept and highly unpopular. These ISI Quislings failed to deliver Afghanistan. Pakistan now changed horses mid-stream, dumped Hekmetyar and raised the Taliban instead. The Taliban also lacks the military expertise and battle hardened cadres. Its recent military performance in Northern Afghanistan has been dismal if not pathetic. It clearly highlights that large scale infusion of dollars and military aid is not enough to crystallise the process of the formation of a new Rentier State in Afghanistan. Charismatic leadership in the field is an essential ingredient. Such a leadership should have emerged from among the Mujahideen military leaders who fought inside Afghanistan. Pakistan, however, never let such a charismatic leadership emerge. It did its best to stymie the sole charismatic leader of the Afghan War--Ahmad Shah Masood—and failed. In the absence of a charismatic, Pan-Afghan Pushtun leader, Pakistan's attempt to unify Afghanistan under Pashtun domination, using massive external aid to rule over a heterogeneous and highly fragmented tribal society are bound to come to grief. That exactly has been the pattern so far.

(c) Lack of a Credible Military Force

The Rentier States in the Sheikhdoms of the Middle East do not form ready-made role models for a new state in Afghanistan. True, both are tribal societies, but the Rentier Sheikhdoms of the Middle East were stable tribal societies even before the oil wealth began to flow in. No military pacification of warring tribes was ever required in these Sheikhdoms. The existing administrative structures were thus used not to collect taxes but to distribute the oil largesse. The very size of the oil doles have kept the tribal population satisfied and the political situation stable. Jill Crystal in her scholarly book, Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Quatar, has carried out an incisive analysis of these Sheikhdoms as classical Rentier States. In an analysis of political change in the Gulf, Crystal has investigated the impact of oil on the formation and destruction of political coalitions and state institutions. It is a pioneering effort in the new subject of the Distributive or Rentier State that addresses itself to the question of how the availability of external revenues affects the internal politics of a state. Distributive policies designed to ensure domestic peace have inadvertantly created large and complex state administrations and distributive states, unusual in that they emerged from the imperative need to EXPEND rather than EXTRACT revenues. These bureaucracies ultimately themselves become the sources of change. This is what happened in Afghanistan. Daoud's educated bureaucracy started the Saur Revolution. It was only Hafizulla Amin who by his reckless pace and brutality derailed the socialist state by thoroughly alienating the tribal society. The point at issue is: can the fundamentalist and illiterate Taliban organise such a state bureaucracy for distributive functions in Afghanistan? Profligate expenditures, the rise of populations and the spread of literacy, besides television and fundamentalism are now beginning to erode the political stability of even the Sheikhdoms in the Gulf. The unfortunate reality in Afghanistan is the total lack of any form of political stability. A Rentier State system designed to spread oil revenues can only be brought about in a society that has been disarmed and pacified. No other society in the world has been so heavily and so indiscriminately armed as the Afghans. Pacifying them over time will need a military force far more efficient than the Taliban can ever hope to become.

(d) The Anarchist Nature of the Taliban

Short-term objectives of facilitating the laying of oil pipelines cannot be allowed to cloud long-term regional perspectives. The Taliban has turned out to be an anarchist and highly fundamentalist outfit. If such a regime forms in Afghanistan, it would have a highly destabilising impact upon the whole of Central Asia. It would have an immediately destabilising impact upon the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. From the 18th century onwards, state formation in Afghanistan had been facilitated by loot gathered from Kashmir and Punjab. In 1947-48, Pakistan had once again unleashed tribal Lashkars to conquer Kashmir. History could repeat itself if an anarchist group such as the Taliban is allowed to rule in Kabul. Western support to such an extremist outfit would make a mockery of their human rights platitudes to the rest of the world. Despite the obvious interests of the American oil firms, therefore, the US government has not recognised the Taliban regime.