War, Peace and the Warlords: The Case of Ismail Khan of Herat in Afghanistan
By Gulshan Dietl
Distribution of power in a political entity is a compromise. It reflects the strengths and weaknesses in the line of command vertically and the reach of power horizontally. It could be embodied in a written constitution, a set of conventions, informal understandings or facts on the ground. A weak center results in the rise of competitive centers of power in the periphery. Eventually, the center may prevail, an uneasy equilibrium may continue, or the entity may split into two or more units.
In uncertain times and strife-torn places, the periphery challenges the center's right to exclusive ownership and use of coercive power. Private militias spring up to protect the local leaders, rule over local populations and guard the local realms. The phenomenon of warlord is in place at that point. The paper proposes to scrutinize the role and relevance of warlords in times of war and peace with special reference to Ismail Khan of Herat.
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