While there is still a war in Afghanistan, it does not get very much attention from the media or the public. The current plan is for the United States and other nations to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. What happens after then is, of course, a matter of some concern.
Looking back on the long history of the region, the prospects for the country (to use the term somewhat loosely)do not seem to be very good, at least in terms of a functional nation emerging.
The chances of Afghanistan becoming a functional nation depends on the capability of the central government to exert authority over the country. This can be done in two ways, which were discussed by Thomas Hobbes in his classic work.
Thomas Hobbes notes that “Fellowes are gotten either by constraint, or by consent; By Constraint, when after fight the Conqueror makes the conquered serve him either through feare of death, or by laying fetters on him: By consent, when men enter into society to helpe each other, both parties consenting without any constraint.”
In terms of compulsion, even with the military might of the United States and its allies the government of Afghanistan has been unable to maintain complete control over the country. When these forces leave the government forces will be on their own. In order to predict what will happen, one must consider the likelihood that these forces will be able to not only completely replace the departing forces but also do a better job at maintaining order. This seems to be unlikely.
While the government of Afghanistan will most likely lack the power to compel those who oppose it, there is the alternative of acquiring consent. That is, getting enough of the people and groups to buy in. If this occurs, the country could stabilize enough to be considered a functional country. Looking at the current situation, it seems unlikely that those opposing the government will come around after the foreign forces depart.
The most likely scenario is that the central government will either be overcome or collapse and Afghanistan will return to the way it has been for centuries. Terrorist groups will, in all likelihood, set up bases and training camps in the region-just as they did in the past. While things will be different in many ways from when the Soviet Union departed, that period of history does provide a good indication of how things will unfold.
Naturally, things could be different this time around-but it seems likely that America will have no more success in nation building in Afghanistan than any of the predecessors had in conquering the land.