Karzai’s curse – legitimacy as stability in Afghanistan and other post-conflict environments

Post-conflict reconstruction and stabilisation have focused upon the establishment of both strong states capable of maintaining stability and various forms of ‘Good Governance’. However, both presume the development of substantial security sectors and highly functioning administrative systems within unrealistically brief periods of time. The failure to meet such inflated expectations commonly results in the disillusionment of both the local populations and the international community, and, hence, increased state fragility and decreased aid financing and effectiveness. As such the authors re-frame the basic question by asking how stabilisation can be achieved in spite of weak state institutions during reconstruction processes. Based upon extensive field research in Afghanistan and other conflict-affected contexts, the authors propose a model of post-conflict stabilisation focused primarily on the attainment of legitimacy by state institutions. Finally, the authors examine how legitimacy-oriented stabilisation and reconstruction will benefit from emerging models of ‘collaborative governance’ which will allow international interventions, through consociational relationships with fragile states and civil society, to bolster rather than undermine political legitimacy.