£26.99 | $33.95

15 September 2008
ISBN: 9781842779569
272 pages
216 x 138mm
Middle East

Development, International Relations, Politics


The Mirage of Peace

By Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie

Widely portrayed as the 'success of the war on terror', Afghanistan is now in crisis. Increasingly detached from the people it is meant to serve, and unable to manage the massive amounts of aid that it has sought, the administration in Kabul struggles to govern even the diminishing areas of the country over which it has some sway. Whatever political progress that has been possible now takes place against a backdrop of mounting casualties among innocent Afghan civilians and NATO troops. Many Afghans feel themselves to be trapped, hostage between two forces, both of which claim to be their liberators. Perceived by some to be part of a wider struggle that extends to Iraq and Palestine, NATO's campaign in the south seems 'unwinnable'. Now, more than ever, it is important to understand Afghanistan and examine the recent experience of international engagement, and the myths and half-truths that abound.

Drawing on long experience of living and working in Afghanistan, Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie examine what the changes of recent years have meant in terms of Afghans' sense of their own identity and hopes for the future. They argue that lasting peace and stability will only be brought about through a form of engagement that respects the rights of Afghans to determine their own political future, while delivering on the responsibilities that come with military intervention.


'There is no doubt about the authors' exceptional understanding of and deep affection for Afghanistan...All said, this is an indispensable book for anyone wishing to gain an understanding of what has been done in and to Afghanistan in the last 30 years. It is also a book that raises profound questions about how and why well-meaning organisations operate in countries which they, often one-sidedly and driven by their own perception of good and evil, believe to need assistance.' Asian Affairs, November 2005

''A vivid, intelligent journey through post 9/11 Afghanistan and the wider region. Thoughtful, intelligent and deeply moving - this account of the post-war crisis in Afghanistan addresses all the major issues of our disturbed world today. The clarity and intellectual forthrightness of this book will help us all understand the violent and confused world we all live in now. This is a deeply sincere and intelligent book in which the voices of ordinary Afghans describe their past and their future. The most powerful book on post 9/11 Afghanistan that you will be likely to read. '' - Ahmed Rashid, author:

'Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace provides a devastating critique of US and UN post-conflict policies in Afghanistan. Writing out of more than fifteen years experience in the country and a deep empathy for the Afghan people, the authors dissect the flawed assumptions, misunderstanding, errors and--in some cases--lack of good faith than have stalled progress in rebuilding this shattered country. It should be required reading for all those interested in why post-conflict peace operations can fail--despite good intentions.' - Andrew Mack, The Liu Centre, University of British Columbia in Vancouver
'Amidst a burgeoning literature on Afghanistan, two seasoned observers have treated readers to a trenchant review of decades of international toying with the Afghan people and state. Their outrage is palpable -- and contagious.' - Larry Minear, Director, Humanitarianism and War Project, Tufts University

'This is a refreshing new look at the layers of complexity that characterize assistance to Afghanistan. The style is blessedly free of academic jargon and bureaucratic rhetoric - and occasionally enlivened by wry asides. The often blunt analyses of ground realities gain credibility from the many years Johnson and Leslie worked within the aid delivery system, heightened by their sustained engagement with Afghans in the cities and in villages. The difficulties the international community and government have in trying to understand one another are interwoven with unusual insights into the nuances of attitudes rooted in social customs. The recommended operational changes will benefit all who care about the well being of Afghanistan.' - Nancy Hatch Dupree, Director of ARIC, The ACBAR Resource and Information Centre

'Johnson and Leslie have brought together a wealth of first hand understanding of Afghan society and its changing conditions to produce a very rich and moving book. It is informative, thoughtful and unsettling. It makes for very valuable reading'. - Amin Saikal, Professor of Political Science, the Australian National University

' Drawing upon their own experiences, as development workers in Afghanistan, the authors explain the present situation, setting this in the context of competing interests, globally, and the disastrous effects of imperialist policies. These are for us to challenge, here in Britain and in the USA - Afghanistan is very much our business too. This book is essential reading for us all'. - Professor Marjorie Mayo, Professor of Community Development Goldsmiths, University of London

Table of Contents

Preface to first edition
Preface to new edition
Foreword - William Maley
1. The mirage of peace
2. Identity and society
3. Ideology and difference
4. One size fits all - Afghanistan in the new world order
5. The makings of a narco-state?
6. State
7. Bonn and beyond, part 1: The political transition
8. Bonn and beyond, part 2: The governance transition
9. Concluding Thoughts
Who's who
An Afghan chronology
Further reading

About the Authors:

Chris Johnson lived in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2004. She first worked for Oxfam, the set up a joint UN/NGO/donor research unit, the Afghanistan research and Evaluation Unit, where she worked until early 2002. She then undertook a wide range of consultancy work for different organisations concerned with the transition. She now works for the United Nations Mission in Sudan. Jolyon Leslie is an architect who has lived and worked in Afghanistan since 1989. He currently manages an urban conservation programme in Kabul and Herat.