Why not break up Afghanistan?

The analogy between Afghanistan and the Oregon Country really doesn’t hold up. To amplify what OxyMoron already said, the dispute over the O.C. was a dispute over what was regarded as “empty” territory which the various players (mainly the British/Canadians and the Americans) wanted to expand into and settle. (Of course it wasn’t really empty, but what happened to the Indians in North American could spawn many threads all on its own, and at any rate, they weren’t party to the negotiations.) Afghanistan isn’t “virgin land” which various countries want to settle; it’s a country already inhabited by various peoples, who’ve lived there for centuries. And, if you look at the map, the lines between the Uzbeks and the Tajiks and the Pashtuns and so on aren’t easy to draw. (Remember too that that map is an oversimplification–even the solidly-colored areas aren’t 100% this or that group; there are people who are Tajik on the mom’s side and Uzbek on their dad’s, isolated villages of Group A in the territory of Group B, remote valleys of this group in that group’s turf, and big cities where members of many of the major ethnic groups rub elbows. There are also many fissures and subdivisions within the major groups, especially the Pashtuns. There’s also the factor that major cities like Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, with all sorts of cultural baggage and strategic significance with regards to transportation lines and so on, are of very doubtful ethnic affiliation, and would probably be claimed by multiple sides.)

Certainly I think Afghanistan could break up along ethnic or semi-ethnic lines. I just don’t see how it could possibly be described as a good thing. It would almost inevitably lead to a bloody, messy war over the numerous boundary disputes and territorial conflicts that would spring up, and if you start trying to divvy up the country among Greater Uzbekistan and Greater Pakistan or Greater Pashtunistan* and so on, you’d export Afghanistan’s existing bloody wars to, at a minium, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran (to whom you’ve awarded the Shi’ite Hazaras), and Pakistan. India and China have no direct plausible territorial claims in Afghanistan, but that list of players includes enough “enemies of my enemy” that one or both could easily be drawn in. May I remind you that Pakistan has nuclear weapons? (And so do India and China, of course.) And at least Iran has definitely sought nukes as well as other advanced weapons (chemical weapons and ballistic missiles). Russia still regards the Central Asian Republics as being in its sphere of influence, and the U.S. has clearly taken a renewed interest in the region, not to mention that as a superpower, the U.S. has interests everywhere.

I’m not saying the partition of Afghanistan would inevitably lead to World War III, but it would almost certainly be a big huge international headache, not to mention a major humanitarian tragedy.

*As JRDelirious pointed out, amalgamating the Pashtuns into one country could be very destabilizing to Pakistan, where the Pashtuns form a large and somewhat restive minority group. Faced with a partition of Afghanistan, the Pashtuns could easily demand a united Pashtun homeland on both sides of the current Afghan-Pakistani border–which I don’t think has ever really been fully accepted by the Pashtuns/Afghanistan–rather than remaining only a somewhat more numerous minority ethnic group within Pakistan.

It is almost redundant to point out what a stunningly bad idea this is.

But let me point everyone to where one might find a real analogy to partioning Afghanistan. India-Pakistan-Bangladesh. The entire area was one political entity once upon a time. That partition was stunningly bloody for all that it was supposed to be voluntary, hundreds of thousands lost their lives. Nor has it solved much.

I should add that the OP’s unsurprisingly uninformed implicit assumption that Ouzbekistan, Iran, Tadjikistan etc. are ethnically homogenous is unfounded. There are Pushtun in Iran, Tadjiks in Ouzbekistan and vice versa. Farsi speakers throughout (or rather Dari, the central asia dialect thereof) Never mind that someone will always find a justification for claiming an area --sure it is Hazara now but in 1830!

Opening the door to partitioning on these grounds – above all imposed from the outside – is nothing short of idiocy.

I have to wonder whether Iran would even want its share.
From what I hear, many Iranians are already nervous about the influx of Afghan refugees and the problems they bring, much in the same way the US worries about illegal Mexican immigrants. After all, given the economic differential, one might reasonably expect a great number of native Afghans to move West (permanently) if allowed.

How would the US react if the world asked it to take over Mexico?

Collounsbury, I have E-mailed a mod regarding the nature of your post. Although I have responded to you in kind over the past 8 months, I’m sick and tired of these personal attacks, and I just don’t want to deal with them anymore.

Apparently I over reacted. As I understand it, I wasn’t personally attacked, just my ideas. Oh well, here we go

It is quite apparent that the above assertion is unfounded and unsupported.

Damn, I wish the strawmen would just stop!!! The OP does not consider partioning Afghanistan into autonomous states, but rather apportion territories to adjacent states.

British India only existed for a very brief time in history. It was another example of the foolishness in attempting to create a nation state out of a colonial administration policy. The partitions,(contrary to the above statement, the breakup of British India occurred in two stages, Pakistan further divided in the subsequent stage) most likely were the best alternative in a region where two major religions interface.

You have absolutely no reason to believe that I assumed such. Read with comprehension damn it!!!

Now that is an idiotic statement. What grounds? Who is talking about imposing from outside? Are you able to see the irony in the above statement if one considers Israel instead of Afghanistan? I suppose we should support efforts for a coalition government in Palistine. Oh I forgot, it is now the West Bank, Gaza, Jordon and Israel.

It’s not our country to arrange. The best we can do is mediate neutrally among the interested groups.

Grienspace, unless I’m totally misunderstanding your point, you are the one talking about “imposing from outside”. Your premise is that Afghanistan ought to be divvied up and given to Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan, right?

This sure sounds like the way that when a family collapsed in the Good Old Days before DCFS and the foster care system, the neighbors used to come in and “divvy up” the children–an action imposed by outsiders on the family.

Centralized control, with the reins of power in whose hands, exactly?

This was a clear case of “outsiders” coming in and divvying up territory that belonged to someone else, namely Native Americans.

You’re saying that Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan are going to sit down and negotiate the disposition of power in the region.

So, who are you suggesting is going to do the divvying up, if not “outsiders”?

Are you seriously suggesting that the Afghans themselves might be persuaded to volunteer to “join” Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan?

Two questions:
Why in the world would they want to do that?
Why in the world would you think that Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan would even want them? It’s just more mouths to feed, and mouths with a poor track record for coexisting peacefully with their neighbors, at that.
Afghanistan political map.

Here’s another interesting link. I’m not trying to continually knock foreign policy, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Much of this stuff was going around rumoured, unpublished, long before it all came out in the open with September 11. Now it’s all coming out of the woodwork.

Thursday November 15 01:21 PM EST
U.S. Policy Towards Taliban Influenced by Oil - Say Authors


First off, Pakistan does NOT want to annex the Pashtuns. The central government there is already nervous that ethnic Pashtuns make up too large a minority in Pakistan. If you add the Pashtuns now living in Afghanistan that could seriously destablize Pakistan, since the Pashtuns would now be the majority. And since the Pashtuns are the pro-Taliban faction, that could mean the Talibanization of Pakistan. I don’t think it would be likely to succeed, but it would mean endless headaches for the Pakistan government. Probably another dirty war, people disappearing, bombs going off in public places, journalists shot by mysterious gunmen, etc etc.

And why do we imagine that Afghans have no national identity? Yes, Afghans have tribal and ethnic and familial affiliations. But they also have a sense of national identity. Is there any evidence that they WANT to be carved up and handed out as spoils of war to whichever of their neighbors has the military muscle to grab what they want?

Afghanistan was not created by colonization. It existed as a region with its own identity long before the British and the Russians got into the game.

Finally, this won’t happen because there is no international consensus that partition must occur. Sure there is fighting everywhere, but Taijiks are just as likely to be fighting Taijiks as they are to be fighting Pashtuns. Ethnic hatred is not a big factor in Afghanistan. The current war is not about ethnicity, it is about religion and warlordism.

Anyway, National governments around the world won’t be keen to slice up Afghanistan, since their country might be next. Many (heck, maybe most) countries in the world are multiethnic. Look at Canada. Or Britain. Or Switzerland. Or Russia. Or Belgium. Or pick a country out of a hat. Most European countries have sizable ethnic minorities. Those nice clean borders on the map aren’t so nice and clean on the ground.

Making national borders mirror ethnic borders is a nice idea, but it is a chimera. People move around. Set your borders at one place, and 20 years later the border doesn’t make sense any more. Which is simply are recipe for another war, another exchange of territory, another round of ethnic cleansing since the rulers of the country that will lose territory are going to be none too pleased.

DDG, To propose an alternative solution to the parties involved is not an imposition. I never claimed that the proposal was the de facto solution to be implemented. I would agree with anyone that an imposed solution without acceptance by All the parties involved is a non starter. But certainly, guidance from particularly well placed entities is of value.

Well that is to be determined of course. on the one hand we have another attempt to install a capital in Kabul for all the regions of the territory called Afghanistan. My proposal skirts Kabul and substitutes established and stable capitals.

Ask yourself, will a Tadjik be an Afghan first then a Tadjik. Considering the ethnic history goes back centuries further than 1919 when the “country” of Afghanistan gained independance, I’m inclined to consider blood is thicker than water, and that a more durable solution will require a recognition of the ethnic realities of the region.

By the way, I suggest to anyone to watch the movie * The Man Who Would be King * with Sean Connery for a sense of what the region was like in the 19th century. Sure it was a region, with much fighting going on between the tribes and no centralized control to arbitrate disputes. Some unity was mustered to oppose the British under Dost Mohammed and his son and grandson from 1838-42 and 1878-81, but ended in defeat. Thus the relevance of Afghanistan to the citizens is merely a means to oppose foreign empires. I doubt, in the absence of an outside threat that their would be much sense of community between a Tadjik in the north and a Pashtun in the south.

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