Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Amen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Earl Conteh-Morgan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Jacobson, Ph.D.


Afghanistan, government, modernization, reforms, Soviet, Taliban


This study arose from the desire to research the effectiveness of state building policies in Afghanistan. In order to address this topic, I review state building literature and find that state building literature focuses largely on the processes of democratization instead of institution building. In the second part of this dissertation I conduct a comparative case study of Afghanistan during the Soviet and Taliban eras to study the relationship between Pashtun `para-state' institutions (PSI's) and levels of political instability. I hypothesize that Pashtun PSI's compete with central state institutions for popular support thus increasing political instability and reducing state institutional effectiveness. I then conduct process-tracing to study hypothesized causal mechanisms that link Pashtun PSI's and political instability. I find that during the Soviet era, areas with Pashtun PSI's exhibited higher levels of political instability than areas without the presence of Pashtun PSI's. However, during the Taliban era, the results were negatively correlated and southern Afghanistan exhibited reduced levels of political instability. The causal mechanisms of `violence against the government' and `support to the local populace' were present in both cases although the introduction of the variables is different in both cases. This research is foundational in clarifying state building literature. Additionally, this study of Afghanistan moves academic literature towards establishing appropriate measures of effectiveness specific to institution building, which is imperative in assessing the success of future and past state building policies.