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Conflict and Transnational Crime: Borders, Bullets & Business in Southeast Asia

2020, Edward Elgar Publishing

Kabul: Bridging the Gap between the State and the People; in: Kaldor, Mary and Sassen, Saskia (eds): Cities at War Global Insecurity and Urban Resistance

March 2020, Columbia University Press

The Aid Bunker: Security Risk Management in Conflict Zones; in: Lemay-Hébert, Nicolas (ed): Handbook on Intervention and Statebuilding

December 2019, Edward Elgar Publishing

The Taliban’s War for Legitimacy in Afghanistan

with Ashley Jackson; 2019, Current History (April)

Institutionalized Intervention: The ‘Bunker Politics’ of International Aid in Afghanistan

with Ruben Andersson; 2019, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding

Afghanistan has come to be seen as emblematic of the security threats besetting peace and security operations, and in this article we consider the response to such threats via the ‘bunkering’ of international staff. Drawing on an in-depth qualitative survey with aid and peacebuilding officials in Kabul, we illustrate how seemingly mundane risk management procedures have negative consequences for intervening institutions; for the relation between interveners and national actors; and for the purpose of intervention itself. Bunkering, we argue, is deeply political – ‘imprisoning’ staff behind ramparts while generating an illusion of presence and control for ill-conceived modes of international intervention.

Book Review | Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within by Shuja Nawaz (Blog post)

2019, South Asia @LSE

Building Legitimacy during Armed Conflict – Learning from the Taliban (Blog post)

2017, Political Violence @ at Glance.

Afghanistan’s Taliban – legitimate jihadists or coercive extremists?

2017, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 11(3), pp.359-381.

The military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 was portrayed as a fight to oust the extremist Taliban. But the Taliban have long been regaining influence, with the military victory of the Afghan government and its foreign allies now seeming less likely than ever. In light of these developments, this article investigates what the affected people – rather than the foreign interveners – think about the Taliban, and whether they perceive them as coercive or legitimate. Building on a conceptual understanding of legitimacy that has been adjusted to the dynamics of conflict-torn spaces, the article suggests that people judge the Taliban on the basis of how their day-to-day behaviour is perceived. While the Taliban are a coercive threat in urban centres and other areas where they launch attacks, they nonetheless manage to construct legitimacy in some of the places which they control or can access easily. A major source of their legitimacy in these areas is the way in which they provide services – such as conflict resolution – which some people consider to be faster and fairer than the state’s practices.

The Afghan Local Police – Closing the Security Gap?

with Sam Vincent and Hameed Hakimi; 2015; Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 4(1): 45, pp. 1–26.

The Afghan Local Police (ALP) was designed as an international counterinsurgency programme that works by raising small, village-level defence forces from within rural Afghan communities. Despite being driven by counterinsurgency objectives – that is, seeking to defeat insurgents – its emphasis upon harnessing local populations reflects broader fashions in development and security policy circles. Such policies, in turn, are commonly seen as emerging from a body of theoretical literature that is rethinking the nature of political order in conflict-torn spaces. At face value the range of well-documented controversies surrounding the ALP suggests, however, that the practice is much more ‘messy’. Using the case study of the ALP in the district of Andar, we make two main arguments. First, the mess and ambiguity surrounding the ALP reveal a gap between objectives and practices, suggesting that interventions that work by seeking to harness the ‘local’ introduce problems that have yet to be fully recognised. Second, however, in explaining the ‘mess’ of the ALP we argue that the theoretically-driven work that is commonly taken to justify ‘bottom-up’ interventions, if taken seriously, is well-suited to understanding and even anticipating the supposedly unexpected consequences of intervenors seeking to tap local dynamics.

Intervention at Risk: The Vicious Cycle of Distance and Danger in Mali and Afghanistan

with Ruben Andersson; 2015, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 9(4), pp.519–541.

In crisis-hit countries, intensive risk management increasingly characterizes the presence of international interveners, with measures ranging from fortified compounds to ‘remote programming’. This article investigates the global drive for ‘security’ from an ethnographic perspective, focusing on Afghanistan and Mali. By deploying the concepts of distance and proximity, the article shows how frontline ‘outsourcing’ and bunkering have generated an unequal ‘risk economy’ while distancing interveners from local society in a trend that itself generates novel risks. To conclude, the article asks whether alternative forms of proximity may help to break the vicious cycle of danger and distance at work in today’s crisis zones.

Investigating the role of legitimacy in the political order of conflict-torn spaces

2015; Working papers, SiT/WP/04/15. Security in Transition, LSE, London, UK.

Conflict-affected spaces that are far from exhibiting a Weberian monopoly of the legitimate use of force have been categorised as ‘fragile’ and ‘failed’ states for years. However, there is a growing tendency to understand conflicts as a form of order and to adapt the definition of statehood accordingly. But while the post-Weberian approaches indeed help to overcome some of the flaws of the dominant understanding of statehood, they do not substantively consider the role of legitimacy. The statebuilding discourse illustrates the problematic implications of the limited understanding of legitimacy on the policy level. In response, this paper suggests in line with post-Weberian scholars to understand political order as a field with multiple authorities but to consider both force and legitimacy as sources underpinning obedience to social control. An analytical framework is developed that acknowledges multiple dimensions of legitimacy as well as its dynamics. This framework may help to analyse legitimacy in empirical cases to inductively advance the theoretical understanding of legitimacy and to enable statebuilding which strengthens those authorities and institutions that are actually considered to be legitimate.

Human vs. state security: how can security sector reforms contribute to state-building? The case of the Afghan police reform

2015; Working paper series, 13-135. Department of International Development, LSE, London, UK.

The paper analyses how security sector reforms (SSRs) can contribute to statebuilding. It is argued that successful state-building requires an endogenous political process which aims at creating political legitimacy instead of certain ideal type Western state structures. In a conflict-torn society this demands security for citizens – an environment in which they feel safe and protected – allowing them to express their opinion freely and participate in a state-building process. The example of the Afghan police reform illustrates that a state-centric SSR is in danger of delegitimising and destabilising the state. In contrast, a human-centric security approach is more likely to support an endogenous process of building legitimate institutions.