The Army of Afghanistan

A Political History of a Fragile Institution

Antonio Giustozzi

Building a fully unified Afghan Army dominated neither by Pashtuns nor by Tajiks has eluded the authorities in Kabul for decades. This book explains why.

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The Army of Afghanistan Hardback
January 2016£50.00

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This book is the first full length political history of the Afghan Army, and as such is unparalleled in the range and depth of its analysis of this vitally important institution. Giustozzi locates the Army’s development within the wider context of state-building in Afghanistan. His volume includes a brief survey of the period to 1953, but focuses mainly on subsequent developments, over the last four decades, as the officer corps began to be politicised and later factionalised, especially during the Russian-backed regime of the Communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which ruled the country from 1978 to 1992. Despite the stress on the politics of praetorianism, the volume describes the Afghan Army’s performance on the battlefield in detail, highlighting the potential contradiction between military effectiveness and political loyalty to the ruling elite. The volume covers developments to the end of 2013 and is the result of extensive interviews conducted with both Afghan Army officers and their advisers and mentors.


Antonio Giustozzi has a PhD from the London School of Economics and is currently Visiting Professor at King’s College, London and fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. He has written or edited ten books, among which are Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency, 2002-7 and The Army of Afghanistan: A Political History of A Fragile Institution.


‘Will undoubtedly be the textbook on this subject. The importance of this book, however, goes far beyond its immediate subject. One of the reasons is that now, as in the past, the Afghan National Army is essential to the survival of the Afghan state. If the army collapses in the face of the Taliban, then, as in 1992 and 1929, not just the present Afghan regime but the state itself will fall and disintegrate—with no foreseeable prospect of it being put back together again.’ — Anatol Lieven, New York Review of Books

‘America has spent 60 billion dollars building up the Afghan army. Today it is certainly big, but why is it not more capable? Giustozzi explores the troubled development of this “fragile institution” in the context of state formation and the successive political settlements of Afghanistan’s conflict-prone past. An authoritative and timely book.’ — Professor Theo Farrell, Head of the Department of War Studies, King’s College London

‘Over the last decade, Antonio Giustozzi’s books and articles concerning Afghanistan have established him as one of the world’s leading scholars of the country, its politics, and its conflicts. This most recent book cements his reputation. It represents the first systematic history of a neglected topic — the Afghan Army — and Giustozzi rightly focuses his sophisticated analysis on the politics of this institution and its patrons and clients. This book is both enlightening and persuasive and deserves wide readership from students, scholars, and policymakers of Afghanistan alike.’ — Thomas H. Johnson, Research Professor, Naval Postgraduate School