Flimsy Fortresses: A Reflection on The Collapse of Afghanistan’s Political Systems During The Past Five Decades

Photo credit: United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR)

By Abdul Saboor Sitez

Humans are intelligent and social beings. Social awareness has allowed people to use their wisdom to better manage affairs and start forming institutions, which in the present age is a phenomenon called the formation of the state. Currently, being a citizen of a state is an urgent need for human societies, because without having the citizenship of a country, it is not possible to benefit from many requirements, such as birth certificates, passports, a right to education, a right to work, social services, among other things.

In the history of human societies, a lot of governments ruled over people under different names and methods. They were overthrown in different ways. In the past, governments arrived with conflicts and left with conflicts. But in the current era, the use of conflict and military struggle to replace governments is not widely acceptable.

Based on universally accepted principles, governments should be formed based on the will of the people, and the facilitators of governance should represent the will of a nation, and whenever the nation’s will to change central actors occurs, it should be done in a peaceful manner.

Ibn Khaldun, an Islamic theorist who is referred to as a “religious rationalist”, has a theory about the collapse of governments. According to him, dynasties repeatedly experience a cycle of “emergence, senescence, autocracy, luxury, servitude to lusts … [leading to a] tendency to rupture.”

Therefore, governments go through an evolutionary process like humans. They undertake an upward path, reach its peak and go downward until they finally get stuck in a crisis and collapse. Based on this view, I examine the process of government collapse in several parts, which includes the beginning of the process, the regeneration crisis point, and finally collapse.

A-The Beginning:

The rise and fall of governments is an old and common phenomenon in the political history of the world. States seek stability after their emergence, because the emergence of states usually occurs during periods of instability. The political history of the world has shown that in most countries, those who have gained power through force have used aggression to establish stability and wipe out the opposition. This caused dissatisfaction among many segments of society and in the long run actually threatened stability.

Another issue here, which also gradually triggers the process of collapse, is various rulers’ focuses on security. This has led to excessive spending on security-related affairs and the armed forces, which weakens the economy and is a threat in the long run.


The second stage is regeneration. During this period, rulers become aware of their weaknesses and feel threatened. The beginning of this stage is important in predicting the situation to follow. This is  because the decisions of the representatives at this stage can either extend the continued rule of forceful regimes or instigate their downfall. At this stage, rulers focus on rebuilding public support and struggle to actually prevent the collapse of their system through trying to establish public support. 

C-Crisis point:

The initial stages of the process and regeneration can be smooth and easy. At this time there is not a  crisis unfolding. However, if victory is not achieved during these two stages, it can be difficult to achieve success in the following critical stages and collapse seems likely. The crisis stage is accompanied by violence, because for their survival the powerful work to ensure demise. At this stage, it is not possible to control the situation clearly, as rulers use limitless violence to maintain their power.


Usually, the crisis stage has a shorter lifespan than the other stages. Due to the aggravation of the situation and the inability to maintain order, government collapse begins. This process can sometimes be completed quickly and in some cases it may take a long time. The collapse of the governing system may have an internal dimension and sometimes it is only internal elements that cause the collapse of the political system. Other times, the political system of a country may be overthrown by the assistance of other countries, along with internal elements.


One of the most basic considerations in the formation of a political system is how to acquire power. Multiple methods can be used for this aim, such as acquisition of power through elections or referenda, coups, and war. The collapse of political systems is sometimes accompanied by the collapse of the entire government and service institutions.

The collapse of Afghanistan’s political systems in the past five decades:

In the last five decades, five types of political systems have been formed in Afghanistan and have been overthrown one after the other. There was the fall of the Shah regime with a bloodless coup by Daoud Khan and the declaration of a republican system. Then the overthrowing of the republican system with a bloody coup by the People’s Democratic Party, and the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan by the Mujahideen, followed by the Islamic State of Afghanistan.

There was also the collapse of the Islamic State by the Taliban and the military conflict between the Mujahideen and the Taliban, until the formation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Lastly, there was the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s political systems in the last five decades were mostly formed on the basis of ideology and creed, and they also collapsed because of this. Therefore, this issue is worthy of reflection. Here I want to focus on the collapse of the Islamic Republic. The September 11 attacks caused the United States to attack Afghanistan and start a war. This resulted in the removal of the Taliban from power.

Concurrently, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was established with the broad support of the international community. Within that system, for the first time, the people of Afghanistan learnt about the principles of democracy. They voted in national elections, for the first time in the history of Afghanistan. This established the grounds for changing the government through national elections.

However,  elections were rigged and this was questioned by the masses. In that time, two governments rule. First, Hamid Karzai in an interim government, followed by two terms as President. After this Mohammad Ashraf Ghani was President until he fled the country in 2021.


In the history of Afghanistan, the system that provided the most education to the society, elections, and laws was during the NATO intervention period. However, it did not gain the necessary acceptance among the public. Corruption to be the main reason for the lack of acceptance of that system. The system of the Islamic Republic was economically the best in the history of Afghanistan, because it received billions of dollars in aid from the international community every year.

In turn its regular and development budget was incomparable to the previous regimes. In terms of its military, it had the most powerful army as well, with 350,000 trained troops. In relation to politics, it had many leaders from different sections of the society within it. But even so, it was overthrown by the Taliban after 20 years, and has now reverted to being ruled by force.


Abdul Saboor Sitez, is a writer and expert on International Relations. His articles have appeared in publications, such as: Hasht - e - Subh, Etilaat Roz, Subh - e - Kabul, Afghan Women's Voices, Zan - e Rooz.



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The article does not reflect the official opinion of the AISS.