Anarchy, Community of States and “Talibans”


The Taliban’s re-accession to power in Afghanistan is approaching an anniversary. Representatives of the extreme ethnic movement entered Kabul unopposed on August 15, 2021. The previous day, the Taliban methodically took control of important logistical and infrastructure hubs, towns, and provinces. It’s time to reach some initial judgments. Let’s examine the Afghan instance within the larger framework of world events occurring via the lens of political theories and schools of international relations (IR). What direction is Afghanistan heading towards under the Taliban? What changes have been made to the international and regional relations system? What about terrorism as a player in international politics?

A report on the state of terrorism in the globe was issued on the eve of the UN Security Council and contains material that has been meticulously vetted regarding the activities of Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State (IS). The following document is the 30th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, which was established in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 1526 and 2253. The report’s findings are depressing, but they also support the theories of experts who foresaw an increase in global terrorism following the Taliban’s takeover of power. The statement in the paper reads as follows: “Al Qaeda and IS’s danger remains strong in conflict-hit regions and the bordering nations, however both of these terrorist organisations might seek to strike in non-conflict areas.”

Conflicts, instability, and contradictions abound in the contemporary world. In the Eastern and Asian areas, where there is a systemic tension of competing potentials, this is particularly true. As a result, the situation is considerably more stable and the conflicts are primarily of an internal political nature in the western portions of the world. Given the functioning institutions, these contradictions can be resolved through democratic plebiscite technologies, or by a change in power, elections, and representative democracy, in which, as political scientist Adam Przeworski wrote, each stratum of society receives its representation (agents in power). In other East and Asian nations, a comparable structure has not emerged. The political system and culture, with a few notable exceptions (Japan, South Korea, etc.), assume a zero-sum game in which the victors of internal political disputes receive everything and the losers are subjected to persecution. Foreign policy frequently functions as a continuation of domestic policy in such a coordinated structure. The governing circles are attempting to increase their influence in international politics and on the external circuit. This explains why tensions occasionally get worse right before elections campaigns. 

The present multilateral system of international relations is unquestionably facing severe challenges as a result of current conflicts. Although the conclusion of this catastrophe is yet uncertain, the serious ramifications for geopolitics, the world’s system of trust, and the global economy cannot be overstated. Contrarily, compromise inclinations are rising in the western half of the world notwithstanding all the difficulties of the current situation. Since it has been at war for the last two thousand years, the West is especially sensitive to the need to preserve peace and stability. In fact, the so-called community of states—theoretical ideas being developed by the English School of International Relations—is becoming stronger after a number of decades. This community is small, segregated, and sparse. It consists of nations that share a same culture, set of principles, and conception of the world order. The most wealthy, powerful, and technologically advanced are forming (or strengthening) a power structure that exists for itself, for itself, and in accordance with its own norms.

Attempts to export values, modernization, and institutions sometimes have conflicting outcomes, as practice over the last few decades has demonstrated. It is clear that they do succeed occasionally. In fact, there are instances where the community of nations has been repopulated with individuals who have, in a short period of time, made significant strides in their own development and carried out—to use the jargon of political theory—an accelerated, occasionally violent modernization with above- or below-average levels of social and political legitimacy. There are, however, other instances where the modernization hypothesis did not succeed and, on the contrary, had detrimental effects. Two instances that can be considered extremes and that are located at the opposite poles of the vertical are offered in the literature in their most generic form: Japan and Afghanistan. We will now discuss Professor Samuel Huntington’s legacy once more. He gained widespread recognition for “The Clash of Civilizations“, a book that was incredibly vivid but also a little questionable, rather than for his classic works on political philosophy.

Huntington was a brilliant theorist in his early years, and he was the first to postulate that rapid modernization would only succeed if solid political institutions were established. Barrington Moore, a professor at Yale University, once declared that “no bourgeoisie, no democracy.” Huntington rephrased that statement as “no political institutions, no modernization.” Both luminaries in political science were correct in their own ways, and their findings were supported by a large body of actual data. Moore published “Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy in 1966, detailing his conclusions, while Huntington published “Political Order in Changing Societies” two years later. Political and social science’s episteme assumes a conflict between competing theories and hypotheses, as well as disagreements over which elements and premises should be taken as gospel. But in this instance, we may conclude that the two researchers complimented one another and systematized the development of what neorealism thinker Kenneth Waltz had dubbed “Man, the State, and War” a few years previously. Scientists express and attempt to analyze precisely what Waltz said, yet they come to different results.

It appears that thinkers, scientists, institutions, and international organizations will continue to lead efforts to identify the fundamental and consistent processes underlying human growth. We regret this; it’s a really terrible situation. In actuality, we observe escalating disagreements between many nations and communities. There are more advantageous conditions that must be met. This deviation from the global paradigm of identifying issues and resolving them collaboratively appears to be transient and, moreover, transient in nature. There are other causes for this, too. First off, no viable and practical alternative to the modernization theory (which has many various implications and sorts), institutional theory (which is also quite varied), or John Ruggie’s idea of embedded liberalism was offered. Furthermore, the economic, technical, and social achievements of nations and countries over the last few decades have been made possible by, or at the very least unwittingly facilitated by, devotion to the tenets of the aforementioned clauses. When a result, the disagreement will lessen as the concepts’ detractors eventually resume executing these programs in their largest and most generic form. 

The theoretical concept of anarchy, which is stated in the article’s title, is another significant part of the issue. This idea, in general, is what many scientists who research IR, from various schools and ideas, believe about. Realists, neorealists, English School adherents, constructivists, and others now acknowledge the anarchy of international relations. Anarchy, in essence, separates a person’s existence inside a state from the life of a state. Within states, there is a supreme authority that sets limitations on the acts of units and provides a semblance of law and order. This power is legal in Max Weber’s ideal kinds. In terms of international relations, the situation is different. All states are officially equal; they have all been sovereign since Westphal’s time in 1648 and have all been national since the time after the Napoleonic Wars. There is no absolute power over states. Hence, the claim that international relations are anarchic. On this, realists and neorealists conclude their analysis. However, English school scientists and later constructivists continue it and reach remarkable results that have the potential to, if not “win,” at least contain the anarchy in the future.

Why does preventing anarchy make sense? According to conservative theorists or advocates of radical sovereignty, nations are sovereign and autonomous, and anarchy is the best thing to have occurred to them since the fall of big empires and the creation of international systems. Despite the fact that the most accomplished IR student sometimes overlooks this reality, the solution to this issue is simple. The objective of the scientific field of international relations is to triumph over anarchy. This is the thesis I want to emphasize. In the UK, the development of IR as a scientific field of study started during the interwar years. The USA received the palm a few while later. These specifics are quite intriguing and illuminating. First of all, IR is a top-tier science, and secondly, the world’s most developed nations provide the most cutting-edge innovations, ideas, hypotheses, and solutions. 

The United States saw the fastest ascension to superpower status following World War II. Implicitly, Woodrow Wilson, a man who worked tirelessly to establish institutions that shielded the globe from a Second World War disaster, was the one who came up with the notion of creating a new scientific field, which had previously been a component of Political and Social Science. These efforts, it must be said, have failed. The objective of IR, which is to prevent conflict and triumph over the factors that lead to it, may be fixed in them. So, according to my argument, science strives to prevail and quell chaos.  

But how can we control chaos? I can be taken lightly if I claim to know the solution to this query. I don’t think anyone has an answer to this issue from a utilitarian or theoretical standpoint that takes into account the diversity of the globe. If the situation were different, nations and countries would respond in a more successful manner. However, some of these attempts were successful. Europe is the most glaring example. According to Max Weber’s developments, the emergence of the EU as a worldwide, regional agency with extensive authority and a neutral, tiresome, involuntary bureaucracy is a major achievement in human political theory. It is difficult to see a battle within or outside of Europe. In actuality, anarchy has been tamed in Europe, which has long served as the epicenter of world affairs and conflicts. The EU has really come the closest to realizing the English School’s idea of forming a community of people rather than a collection of nations. Barry Buzan, a well-known proponent of this hypothesis, says as such. Because of its central notion of an international society, the concept of society has been removed from the state and from having individuals as members. Outside of the EU, there aren’t any other examples in the globe. This might be the only instance.  

As a result, international relations have become somewhat more regionalized. In their territories, where their interests and ideals are recognized, nations and countries temporarily bind together. The global West is the most obvious illustration of this tendency. The communities of nations appear brighter according to the patterns of the English school. However, how can we deal with situations that only initially appear to be of a regional or national nature? Specifically, why should the most forward-thinking and powerful segment of the West resolve Afghanistan’s issues? It is far distant, there have been attempts, but nothing has transpired. The most pessimistic analysts will eventually point out that the vast majority of the populace rejected modernization, acknowledged the Taliban’s rule, and is now prepared for archaisation. 

There are actually multiple aspects to this query. The backing of any community is an essential step for responsible participants in international life, it looks like everything is obvious here. The other viewpoint is more realistic. It has to do with the interests of the genuine community of Western nations, which can only be closed in theory to safeguard their own interests. This is impossible in the current digital era. Even distant events that are more or less significant will have an impact on the Western society. A terrorist organisation’s ascent to power in a given nation cannot help but increase the threat of terrorism in the area, the rest of the world, and on a global scale. In reality, the UN study supports this concept. Afghanistan’s security situation is still precarious, and there is a chance that it may get worse. The peace process is still unpredictable.

Al-Qaida is present in at least 15 Afghan provinces, mostly in the eastern, southern, and south-eastern areas, according to the UN study. The Taliban defend Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent from the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, and Nimruz. Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has been consolidating splinter groups and stepping up cross-border attacks, continues to pose a threat to the area. TTP has grown its revenue through taxes, smuggling, and extortion. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) has expanded into other provinces, including Nuristan, Badghis, Sari Pul, Baghlan, Badakhshan, Kunduz, and Kabul, where fighters have established sleeper cells, despite territorial, leadership, manpower, and financial losses during 2020 in Kunar and Nangarhar Provinces. In and around Kabul, where it carries out the majority of its attacks on minorities, activists, public servants, and members of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, the group has fortified its positions. The terrible attack on June 8th, which resulted in the deaths of 10 humanitarian deminers working in Baghlan Province and the injuries of 16 more, was most recently attributed to ISIL-K.

As a result, UN specialists keep track on global terrorist organization activity. Let me remind you that, on the eve of the most serious terrorist strikes in history in 2001, the UN also very professionally recognized the possible risk from transnational terrorists. As a result, neither the Western society nor any other government or nation can ignore the threat of terrorism and concentrate on engaging in conflict with geopolitical rivals. Political power never leaves a void; eventually, numerous autocracies, extremist movements, and terrorists strive to fill it. Terrorism should be viewed as a single system with several interconnected or autonomous units, and when this system becomes stronger in one region of the world, its equivalents automatically get stronger in that region as well. As a result, Dr. Elisabeth Kendall of Girton College at the University of Cambridge underlines the expansion of Islamist influence in Yemen.

The Taliban’s ascent to power in the summer of 2021 proved that Afghanistan and the region as a whole have experienced a comparable vacuum. Actually, the US and NATO withdrew from Afghan politics, putting the Taliban in control of all that had been established over the previous decades. Autocracies took advantage of this power vacuum to strengthen their positions and fund proxies, such as the Taliban. The Taliban were sponsored by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistani military. In reality, they carried out a coordinated special operation and organized the advance of combat troops, the seizure of vital supply lines, and ultimately the liberation of Kabul. Islamabad is currently attempting to exert tight control over the Taliban in order to utilize it to further its geopolitical objectives. 

On the one hand, the Taliban’s success was the inevitable result of the situation. It demonstrated that sizable portions of the Afghan public oppose modernization based on a Western paradigm. The tragic events also demonstrated that, despite their extremism and predilection for terrorism, the Taliban in Afghanistan represent the interests of a certain, mostly immobile segment of rural population. The Taliban has also developed into a far more skilled army that has mastered new hybrid techniques for carrying out contemporary combat, such as propaganda, information technology, public relations, and psychological operations. In actuality, the Taliban has evolved into a much wiser organization that employs both soft and hard power technologies. Additionally, there has been a distinct development that has been a feature of the extreme revolutionary forces gaining power. We are discussing attempts to play a multi-vector policy, which is a concrete rationalization of the political agenda. Although there have been no explicit attempts to export this ideology in the past year, this organization is nevertheless dedicated to an extreme interpretation of radical Islam.

The threat to the entire globe, the Western world, and Afghanistan’s neighbors continues to exist on a new level. First, it is clear that the Taliban were unable to establish a functional economic and governmental system in Afghanistan. The Taliban are still a violent, extremist organisation that engages in political terrorism. A complicated state system cannot be created by them, let alone managed. As a result, the Taliban’s rise to power did not resolve the issues facing Afghan society and the government. As reported by foreign organizations, the Taliban’s rule has, on the other hand, exacerbated the poverty that always existed among large portions of the people. No serious famine was reported by the same organizations, regardless of how flawed the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan was or how many errors were committed. Second, the issue is in the area of what political science theory refers to as recognition. The swift, clear, and unwavering victory of the Taliban against the United States and its allies in Afghanistan has served as a beacon and a signal for a vast network of despotisms, extremist political groups, and terrorist organizations. Outside of the Western world, many people saw this as evidence of American waning and decline as well as a lack of cohesion within NATO.


I’ll reiterate my opinions and theories to wrap things up. The world is evolving, and it is evolving rather fast. What the relationship system will look like in the upcoming decades is difficult to predict. There are significant changes taking place in the world that may have an impact on several states and countries. It seems that for a while, communities will form throughout the world based on shared interests and ideals. The most prevalent opinion is that democracies and autocracies will likely share these limits. This view has significance, and it is probable that this will be the case. However, it is important to note that the theory of the English school, which aims to “curb” anarchy, which is the objective of IR as a scientific field, will be used to explain the majority of contemporary events, in my opinion. 

The simplest and most popular theory, realism, fixes the fact of conflict in international affairs, but it offers no explanations, doesn’t identify winners and losers, and, most crucially, doesn’t provide any ways to resolve it. The most potent, unified, and cutting-edge pole of power is the collection of nations that make up the Global West. He also had to deal with numerous contemporary issues, such as the Afghan campaign’s failure and the hardline Taliban movement’s stunning win. The position of international terrorists as actors in international relations has been significantly boosted by this element, and they now serve as a beacon for forces in world politics that lack responsibility. 

Afghanistan cannot have straightforward linear answers, as history has demonstrated. Whether we like it or not, the Taliban represents the reality of Afghan society, a byproduct of the country’s long history of violence and constant war. The international community of nations cannot ignore the existing circumstances, let them develop on their own, or continue to overlook the escalating terrorist tendencies in Asia and the East.

Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatryan, associate professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.


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