NATO’s Afghan partners: between ally and adversary (2003–2014)

  • Joakim Brattvoll Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute

Abstract

This article discusses NATO’s relationship with the Afghan authorities and security forces. Although NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan has been widely debated, few have thoroughly analyzed the partnership between NATO and Afghanistan. That is where this article seeks to add value. Applying a discourse analysis to key NATO texts and speeches in the period 2001-2014, it shows the tensions involved in cooperating with an ‘alien’ partner on the basis of a common threat perception. It finds that in the period 2003-2009, NATO represented its own and its Afghan partners’ values and objectives as ‘shared’, while at the same time policing the values of these partners. These representations are understood as a tool aimed to transform the Afghan partners into moving towards the liberal standards of the alliance. From 2009, a significant shift in this policy can be noted, as NATO’s responsibility for ‘assisting’ Afghanistan is outsourced back to the Afghans themselves. The Afghan partners’ refusal to take on board NATO’s values as well as resistance through insider attacks are seen as the main reason for this shift. Finally, it suggests that analyzing the tensions between discursive constructions of ‘enemy’ and ‘partner’ showed in this article is worth applying in other cases, such as in current making of alliances in fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

Sammendrag

I den stadig voksende litteraturen om NATOs ISAF-operasjon i Afghanistan, er alliansens partnerskap med afghanske aktører et understudert tema. Denne artikkelen forsøker å belyse partnerskapet mer utførlig. Ved å anvende en diskursanalyse på NATOs fremstilling av afghanske myndigheter og sikkerhetsstyrker i perioden 2003–2014, viser artikkelen hvordan et partnerskap preget av mistillit tar form og endres over tid. Funnene viser at i perioden 2003–2009 representerte NATO sine egne og de afghanske partnernes verdier som felles. NATOs representasjon av sine egne og de afghanske partnernes verdier som felles, forstås som et verktøy for å forandre de afghanske samarbeidspartnere i retning av NATOs liberale verdigrunnlag. Et betydelig skifte i denne fremstillingen ser vi fra 2009 til 2014, da NATO i stadig økende grad begynner å anse partnerne som et sikkerhetsproblem istedenfor en partner. Analysen viser dermed hvordan representasjoner av en partner over tid har betydning for politikken som føres på bakken, og for hvordan denne legitimeres.

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Published
2018-12-13
Section
Fagfellevurdert
How to Cite
BRATTVOLL, Joakim. NATO’s Afghan partners: between ally and adversary (2003–2014). Internasjonal Politikk, [S.l.], v. 76, n. 4, p. 290-310, dec. 2018. ISSN 1891-1757. Available at: <https://tidsskriftet-ip.no/index.php/intpol/article/view/605>. Date accessed: 26 mar. 2019. doi: https://doi.org/10.23865/intpol.v76.605.