If the U.S. is on the verge of losing in Afghanistan, should it try partitioning it?

If the U.S. is on the verge of losing in Afghanistan, should it try partitioning it?

  • Total voters
Sep 2017
Wasn't this partition reversed after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, though?
My apologies, I only just saw your reply. The partition itself was a byproduct of the overall "Dissolution" of the HRE. It was never reversed, merely continuously re-drawn ad infinitum following the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Overall no government has managed to both:

1. Maintain it's original Constitution
2. Hold it's original territory

Within the territorial footprint of the former HRE at any point since 1806. Take Germany for instance, the core territories are still there but it's gone through what four completely different governments and two more partitions since 1866? All that while claiming and losing territory amounting to twice it's current size at least twice?

That lack of stability is primarily what I intended to highlight in my original comment.

The break-up of the Soviet Union itself was relatively peaceful, though. Indeed, the main troubles occurred on the periphery--in Transnistria, in Nagorno-Karabakh, in Abkhazia, in South Ossetia, et cetera.

As for Yugoslavia, some parts of it--such as Macedonia's secession--were peaceful while other parts of it weren't. Of course, what might have helped was if NATO would have militarily intervened in Yugoslavia at the very beginning inside of it 1995. Or, alternatively, had Bosnia and Herzegovina been partitioned between Serbia and Croatia in Yugoslav times, there might not have been a war in Bosnia--and certainly not as severe of a war--in the first place.
I certainly don't object to the characterization you're presenting. I do generally assign greater significance to the original partitioning and dissolution of the HRE.
Given that, IMO, partitioning created the problem I can't say I believe further partitioning would fix it.

One issue with the partition of Palestine, though, is that most of the Jews there were recent immigrants. Thus, a Jewish-majority state in Palestine might have been more objectionable to Arabs than, say, a Christian-majority state in Mount Lebanon would have.
I tend to agree with you on this. That being said, it could be equally true that had we cultivated a relationship with Mohammed Mosaddegh and Iran rather than sponsoring the coup in 1953, America could have relied on Iranian assistance in normalizing diplomatic and religious relations in the Middle East.
After all, in 1953 Iran was a whole lot more progressive than most of the world and had told the Soviets to "kick rocks" of their own initiative to boot.

I could challenge you with a counter-proposal, though. Specifically, in spite of being much more Balkanized than it was in the past, Europe today is also relatively stable. Indeed, other than the Balkans, Caucasus, and Donbass, Europe appears to have been pretty peaceful ever since 1945.

In turn, one could say that if a partition occurs and Great Powers are willing to enforce this partition over the long(er)-run, then a partition is more likely to be successful than would otherwise be the case.
I won't disagree that you could challenge my assertions about stability. In fact I'm certain that you can raise a number of very strong arguments in addition to the one you're presenting here. By certain metrics I would even agree with you.
Stability however, at least as far as I value it, can't simply be considered as a "lack of open warfare between nation-states."
To use a blatant rhetorical device, the Balkans, Caucusus and Donets Basin are - by your own admission - both unstable and a part of Europe. Ergo Europe has not been peaceful since 1945.
I don't want to simply gloss over the point however because I believe that the underlying issues tend to spread their impact well beyond the borders of the affected areas.
Consider that Eastern Europe has a significantly higher rate of violent crime than the rest of the continent. Or that the economies of these countries are very weak. That there is strong evidence of Russian interference in all levels of Eastern European politics and has been for the last 30 years. Or, alternately that the US was drawn into a confrontation with Russia over Georgian sovereignty only a few years ago. Not to mention Euromaidan three years ago.

I don't actually disagree that were great powers to actually enforce their partitions they could be successful. I think that goes without saying, but I can't think of any one example where it has actually happened, historically. Given that I can present innumerable examples of instability linked to unenforced partitions and that no one has historically enforced a partition "long enough" I tend to conclude that it's better not to partition than to try.


Ad Honorem
May 2011
Are the Farsiwans the Tajik puddles in the north or the Tajik puddles in the west?

If they're the ones in the north, then Yes, apparently so.

Are you sure that they'd be persecuted? After all, ethnic Russians don't appear to be overtly persecuted in Central Asia nowadays.

Would the Farsiwans prefer to live under Taliban rule, though? I mean, if it comes down to a choice between two bad options, I am unsure that living as persecuted minorities would be the inferior option (considering that the alternative could be to live under Taliban rule). Of course, I do think that countries in Central Asia and elsewhere should be pressured in regards to improving their treatment of minorities.
The Farsiwan community are predominantly Shia and would as such not fare well under Pashtun Taliban rule. Tajiks in Uzbekistan today are an urban community much as the Farsiwan would end up becoming under a Pashtun state (https://thediplomat.com/2016/09/the-tajik-tragedy-of-uzbekistan/). Ask these people and they would say there is no need for any partitioning and understandably so.

Yep. However, this doesn't seem like an insurmountable task. After all, the Soviets were able to build infrastructure in Central Asia and China appears to have been able to build infrastructure in its western provinces.

Of course, the West and/or China should probably build this infrastructure themselves since there is the possibility that if the Hazaras are tasked with doing this they will simply engage in corruption and waste all of this money on something else. Indeed, corruption appears to be a serious problem in Afghanistan--something which I certainly don't see changing even if Afghanistan will break up.
Even if a Hazara state were theoretically formed it does not take away the fact that significant Hazara communities live elsewhere in the country. Once again these people would be told to pack up their bags, leave their businesses, leave their houses etc for a new country. A terrible predicament for people which can be avoided.

Of course, the countryside around Karachi has very few Pashtuns, correct?
Indeed, Karachi is to Sindh province what London is to England. A cosmopolitan urban mix whose demographics do not reflect the homogeneity in neighbouring rural areas.

So, what about making a continued NATO commitment to Afghanistan conditional on it accepting the current Afghanistan-Pakistan border?

Also, what's interesting is that, if Afghanistan were to actually succeed (virtually impossible, I know) in annexing the Pashtun-majority areas of Pakistan, Afghan Pashtuns would be outnumbered 2 to 1 by Pakistani Pashtuns in their own country. Indeed, is that really a good thing to want?

That said, though, isn't Pakistan also worried about Indian influence in Afghanistan? Basically, I heard that Pakistan doesn't want to be encircled on two sides by India.
Pakistan and its "occupation" of Pashtun lands has become a bogeyman for Afghanistan and its politicians by now. The Afghan establishment knows that there is next to no chance of it acquiring Pakistani territory today but decades of built up anger as a consequence of propaganda during the Communist and Monarchical periods has resulted in politicians in the country today having little manoeuvring space as far as the border issue is concerned. As for the US playing a role in resolving the border issue there finally seems to be some activity going on in Washington regarding this issue now (https://www.dawn.com/news/1356524). However it may well be too late by now since as said the Afghan Taliban maintain relations with a lot more outside powers than Pakistan today meaning they are not reliant on Pakistan.

Also, are you suggesting that the U.S. should simply pack up its bags and withdraw from Afghanistan?

In addition to this, are Russia and Iran supporting the Taliban merely to hurt the U.S., or is there something deeper to this?

Finally, I hope that you would be willing to answer my question about a hypothetical Afghan entry into World War I and the consequences thereof.
Well I am not one to say what the US should or should not do. It will look after its own interests just as Pakistan and Afghanistan will look after theirs. Personally I just think the whole idea of "nation building" was a complete miscalculation and has resulted in the wasting of billions of dollars but that is an issue US tax payers should raise.

About Iran and Russia there are two main reasons. 1) The rise of ISIS in Afghanistan. (https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/08/isil-afghanistan-growing-threat-170813133122968.html) Whereas the Afghan Taliban are nationalistic in nature meaning that they have always contained their activities to staying within the borders of Afghanistan, ISIS as they showed in the Mid-East have no regards for international boundaries. They will attack the Central Asian "stans" and Iran without thinking twice which has provoked Russia and Iran to join the conflict on the Taliban's side. The Afghan army is weak and cannot handle ISIS on its own. 2) the icing on the cake for Iran and Russia however is also the fact that supporting the Taliban bleeds the US army. This is especially the case for Russia which was on the recieving end of this bleeding strategy when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan in the 80s and US and Pakistani funded Mujahideen groups initiated a guerrilla war against the Russians and the then Afghan government.

I will PM you my response regarding the WWI scenario.


Ad Honorem
May 2011
It is wrong to assume Afghanistan today is in bad shape because of their irredentist Movement. Afghanistan was pretty strong up to 1970s. It started as Pakistani leaders understanding future vulnerability against India, sought to get strategic depth. Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan provided them many proxies using them Pakistan hoped to have a subservient Afghanistan.

As early as 1950s Ayub Khan offered to have a union of Afghanistan and Pakistan, to have strategic depth.
Irredentism set into motion events that led to today's situation. The country's only maritime outlet to the world in this era for example was via Pakistan. Hostility with Pakistan led to the closure of embassies and economic embargoes. This hurt Afghanistan's economy (see below).

For all his domestic successes, it was Daouds inability to accept the status quo on the Pakistan border that led to his downfall and the end of his first period in power.
In both 1960 and 1961, Daoud sent combined army-tribal forces across the border to intervene in local disputes within Pakistan. The first incursion was repelled by Pashtun tribesmen on the other side; the second, with the help of Pakistani air force and army, which suffered substantial casualties. In August 1961, the powerful new Pakistani president, Ayub Khan, himself a Pashtun, closed his country's consulates in Afghanistan.
In retaliation, the Daoud government suspended all relations and closed the border between the two countries, some 200,000 seasonal nomads were prevented from following their traditional routes across the Durand Line. The 18-month closure (with one emergency eight week reprieve) caused serious economic dislocations to Afghanistan, including huge trade losses and a drastic drop in crucial customs income, despite attempts by both the United States and the Soviet Union to open alternative transit routes. When combined with overspending on development projects, the affair led to shortages, inflation and the evaporation of foreign reserves.
Page 123, A Brief History of Afghanistan, By Shaista Wahab, Barry Youngerman

Unable to take on Pakistan alone Kabul then turned to foreign powers most notably the Soviets to garner their support against Pakistan as part of the irredentist strategy. When the US did not respond Kabul turned completely to the Soviets. Embracing the Soviets however led to its own complications as Soviet agents infiltrated the Afghan army and eventually caused the Saur Revolution which resulted in the creation of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan.

At the same time, Soviet foreign policy was moving away from support for friendly, progressive non-communist regimes and toward the promotion of communist revolution wherever possible. Daoud's persistent attempts to suppress the Left within Afghanistan, including Soviet trained officers in the army, played into the hands of Soviet hard-liners.
Page 132, A Brief History of Afghanistan, By Shaista Wahab, Barry Youngerman

Following the Saur revolution, the new communist regime imposed a series of huge societal reforms on an ultra conservative Muslim society. The backlash was inevitable.

The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, the major socialist party, overthrew Daoud in April 1978 and embarked on a process of accelerated reform. The often brutal methods used and the nature of these reforms provoked a massive backlash throughout the country. The situation became chaotic, and the USSR feared that its economic and political interests might be threatened. In December 1979, Soviet forces entered Afghanistan and took control of key centres.
Page 24 , Frances Stewart, ‎Valpy Fitzgerald, War and Underdevelopment: Country Experiences

The rest is history. The point is had Afghanistan not been confrontational from the beginning, its economy would not have been disrupted. It could have developed its economy and exported via Pakistan rather than becoming reliant on the Soviets. The Soviets were at this time in the mood to expand the revolution. Expanding the revolution to an ultra conservative society had a backlash. Pakistan utilised this backlash in order to ensure Afghanistan would no longer be a hostile country. The US supported Pakistan because the Soviets were dangerously close to the Gulf (oil) ... the source goes back to irredentism.