This research endeavors to critically study the state-building inter-vention in Afghanistan since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001. By analyzing field interviews collected from six large Af-ghan provinces, this dissertation, in particular, explores an alterna-tive state governmental design at the central level, and examines the role of elected provincial councils for decentralization at the sub-national level in Afghanistan. Since the Bonn conference in 2001, the Afghan ethnopolitical elites are divided between the Pashtuns for a heavy centralized presidential state system, and the non-Pashtuns (mainly Tajik, Hazara, and Uz-bek) for semi-presidential parliamentarism, among them some advo-cates for parliamentary federalism. While the 2004 Afghan constitu-tion adopted a heavy unitary centralized state system. In practice, it continued an ethnopolitical elite power-sharing government agreed upon at the December 2001 Bonn conference. The findings of this study reveal that implementing a non-ethnic-party and merit-based democratically elected unitary government as envisioned in the 2004 Afghan constitution, would neither be accepted by the various ethnic groups and parties nor would it be backed by the regional and inter-national partner countries. A complete federal option also fails to have majority Afghan support, nor is it suitable for a geographically and socio-politically complex, and economically weak Afghanistan. The National Unity Government (NUG) model in place since 2014 – a somewhat semi-presidential system – has not been successful, and the lack of a strong political party system also weakens the ar-guments for adopting semi-presidentialism. If peace, social justice, political stability, good governance, economic development, and na-tional integration is the optimum goal for system change, Afghans need to adopt a unitary ethnic grand-coalition at the center, (a presi-dent with three vice-presidents with no constitutional pre-specifica-tion of ethnic status for these executive posts) and a moderate decen-tralized administration at the sub-national level. This dissertation also finds that the Afghan elected Provincial Councils (PC) in place since 2005 are constitutionally week and in some instances dominated by warlords and drug mafias. Nevertheless, they have proved significant to local governance in rural Afghanistan, improving political awareness, the mobilization and participation of women, government legitimacy, democracy, and economic development. If the Afghan government ever managed to make peace with the Taliban, curbed warlordism and corruption, then for implementing decentralization, the Afghan PCs are the most feasible democratic institution to build on.
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