This Adelphi draws together an impressive line-up of expert analysis to provide a comprehensive look at the obstacles that Afghanistan, together with regional and international partners, faces as it charts a slow course back to functional statehood.

As international security forces prepare to depart from Afghanistan, this Adelphi turns attention to the ability of a ravaged country to tackle its myriad security problems, overcome crippling poverty and corruption and somehow revive its devastated economy. The government faces daunting challenges, ranging from the threat of insurgency and cross-border terrorism to the difficulty of reintegrating and reconciling former Taliban figures and combatants into a political settlement. It must do so against the background of continuing and potentially increasing regional instability, with the country’s neighbours tempted to step up their interference in Afghan affairs.

Stability depends upon drawing the wider Pashtun community into the ruling coalition, while simultaneously maintaining security, increasing the capability of the state and balancing the interests of its neighbours and regional powers. This volume draws together expert analysis to provide a comprehensive study of the obstacles that Afghanistan must overcome, together with regional and international partners, as it charts a slow course back to functional statehood.

`This penetrating analysis, succinctly written with a total grasp of the complexity of the problems, provides the most forward-looking analysis available anywhere. Addressing Afghanistan’s ties to Pakistan, India, Iran and Central Asia, it shows how the region will affect Afghanistan’s future and how Afghanistan will affect the region.’
Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia

‘This book makes fascinating and essential reading. It illuminates the issues with great thoroughness and, against the prevailing gloom, dares to make the case for conditional optimism.’
Lord Robertson, former Secretary-General of NATO

‘An invaluable work of sober, informed analysis. Each chapter lays out the facts without bias, guiding the reader through the enormous complexity of Afghanistan past and present. Most importantly, the regional dynamic receives thorough treatment.’
Jason Burke, author of Al-Qaeda: the True Story of Radical Islam and The 9/11 Wars and South Asia correspondent for The Guardian

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  • Strategic Geography

    This chapter analyses the challenges faced by Afghanistan through a series of charts, graphs and maps. These include maps of pre-2001 training camps, the Taliban strikes, militant groups in 2011, the past decade of NATO operations, coalition and civilian casualties, supply routes to Afghanistan, Afghan ethnicities and natural resources. Data is also provided for the distribution of power, Afghan infrastructure, the drug industry, the Afghan economy, education and security.
  • Introduction

    In 2010 the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) launched a major research project focused on the future of Afghanistan and its relations with the wider region. This book is a result of that programme. The project began after US President Barack Obama’s crucial West Point speech in December 2009 that announced a change to America’s policy. By then it was clear that NATO’s Afghanistan strategy was not sustainable in...
  • Chapter One: The road to Lisbon

    Nine years after Western countries launched a military intervention in Afghanistan, the leaders of the NATO Alliance met in Lisbon, Portugal, to discuss the future of what had become a troubled mission. Although foreign troops deployed to improve security in the country had grown to a peak of 138,000, it was hard to believe that Afghans were becoming safer. Conflict-related civilian casualties increased by 15% in 2010, as did the...
  • Chapter Two: US policy and Afghanistan

    On 2 May 2011, American Navy SEALs penetrated the walled compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding, and killed him. President Barack Obama's decision to launch the operation was a risky one: there was only indirect evidence that bin Laden was actually in the Abbottabad compound; if the mission had failed, with American deaths and Pakistani victims, Obama would have been pilloried as relentlessly as Jimmy Carter was...
  • Chapter Three: Domestic politics and state-building

    US President Barack Obama announced the end of the temporary surge in operations in Afghanistan on 23 June 2011, vowing to withdraw by December 2012 all the 33,000 extra troops sent to the country as part of his review of Afghanistan policy. However, those involved in conducting the US government's review of Afghan policy were divided into two camps. On one side was the Pentagon, supported by Secretary of State...
  • Chapter Four: The economy, the budget and narcotics

    The fortunes of Afghanistan's economy are inextricably bound up with political stability, security and the strengthening of state structures. A weak economy, in which poverty is widespread, is inimical to the stabilisation of the state. Economic growth alone can provide the jobs and food security that will underpin a transition away from a war economy. Development of exports and domestic industry are essential if the currentaccount deficit is to be...
  • Chapter Five: The ANSF and the insurgency

    The progress of a complex and non-linear military campaign is often difficult to assess while the war is still being fought. Only from 2010 did the ISAF operation receive the resources it needed to pursue a full counter-insurgency strategy of ‘clear, hold and build’. ISAF reached its peak strength of 131,000 by December 2010, by which time its main effort was concentrated on the Taliban's heartland in Helmand and Kandahar...
  • Chapter Six: The international and regional terror threat

    It was the threat from al-Qaeda that brought the United States and its allies to Afghanistan, and it is the need to ensure that the country cannot again become a haven for terrorism that is cited as the primary justification for the continuing counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign, with all its attendant costs and political unpopularity. The death of Osama bin Laden, in a March 2011 raid by US special forces in...
  • Chapter Seven: Pakistan

    Pakistan has strong and deep interests in Afghanistan, with which it shares a common religion, culture, tradition and history. Yet one point of commonality is also a source of friction: the border is contested and porous, and straddled by sizeable ethnic Pashtun and Baluch communities. Although the violence and instability in Afghanistan adversely impacts Pakistan's domestic politics and security, Pakistan's interventionist policies towards Afghanistan for the past 32 years have...
  • Chapter Eight: Iran

    As an immediate neighbour sharing a long border and deep historical, linguistic and societal ties, Afghanistan occupies a central place in the statecraft of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The security of Iran is, to an extent, directly dependent on the situation in Afghanistan. Indeed, as a chronically weak if not failed country prone to foreign interference by Iran's regional and global rivals, Afghanistan presents profound challenges to Iran's external...
  • Chapter Nine: The Central Asian states and Russia

    Afghanistan's northern neighbours – the five post-Soviet Central Asian states and Russia – receive scant attention in most regional analyses. Yet Afghanistan's northern neighbourhood is vital in assuring stability in the post-ISAF period. Three Central Asian states share a border with Afghanistan: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Kyrgyzstan is host to the Manas air base, the largest US and ISAF base in Central Asia; and Kazakhstan has sought to play a...
  • Chapter Ten: China

    Until relatively recently China's relations with Afghanistan have been extremely limited. As a consequence of negotiations between the United Kingdom and Imperial Russia in the late nineteenth century as part of the ‘Great Game’, China acquired a land border with Afghanistan in the form of the Wakhan corridor, a narrow strip of land on the northern edge of the Hindu Kush running between Tajikistan and Pakistan. But the border, located...
  • Chapter Eleven: India

    India's ties with Afghanistan are civilisational and historical, including the spread of Buddhism in the 3rd century BCE and trade ties through the Silk Road. From the late nineteenth century until 1947, the Durand Line served as the border between Afghanistan and British India. However, Indian independence and the creation of a separate Pakistani state in August 1947 denied India geographical contiguity with Afghanistan, thereby curtailing its policy options. India...
  • Chapter Twelve: Saudi Arabia

    The Western interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 and 2003 respectively profoundly changed the wider Middle East, as seen from Riyadh. Under Saddam Hussein, a wellresourced Iraq was a direct competitor to Saudi Arabia. The Iraq that emerged from the occupation was, in Saudi eyes, merely a pawn of the kingdom's greatest rival, Iran, which has grown more confident that it can challenge for ideological and geopolitical dominance in...
  • Conclusion

    The Soviet Union fought in Afghanistan for nearly ten years and then left behind a client government. That government managed to last for just over three years, only being toppled by the country's warlords once Moscow had cut off its access to external financial support. Years of chaos and brutality ensued. By the end of 2014, the US and its allies will have fought in Afghanistan for 13 years. Thereafter...

Nicholas Redman is Senior Fellow for Geopolitical Risk and Economic Security, IISS.

Toby Dodge is Consulting Senior Fellow for the Middle East, IISS, and a Reader in International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation Building and a History Denied (Columbia University Press) and Iraq's Future: The Aftermath of Regime Change (IISS).

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Afghanistan: to 2015 and Beyond

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