Warlords are charismatic leaders who exploit weak authorities to gain control of subnational areas. Nevertheless, warlords do in fact participate in state formation, and this book considers the dynamics of warlordism within the context of such debates. Antonio Giustozzi begins with aspects of the Afghan environment that are conducive to the fragmentation of central authority and the emergence of warlords. He then accounts for the phenomenon from the 1980s to today, considering Afghanistan's two foremost warlords, Ismail Khan and Abdul Rashid Dostum, along with their political, economic, and military systems of rule.
Despite the intervention of Allied forces in 2001, both of these leaders continue to wield considerable power. Giustozzi studies the similarities and differences between their administrations and compares them against the ascendance of a third warlord, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who incorporates similar elements of rule. Giustozzi identifies prevalent themes in the emergence of warlordism, particularly the role of local military leaders and their gradual acquisition of "class consciousness." He then tracks the evolution of this strategy into a more sophisticated state-like, or political-party-like, structure.
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