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Yousef Khan '22

The Paradox of American-led State-Building in Afghanistan: Protection Money, International Aid, and the Afghan War

The United States has spent billions of dollars on state-building in Afghanistan over the past two decades since the intervention, and the outcome was the fragile Afghan state that quickly fell to the Taliban in August 2021 after the military withdrawal. In my thesis, I examined the role of private and international contractors who were primarily responsible for implementing these mega state-building projects/contracts through two major case studies, “the Kajaki Electricity Dam” project and “The Host Nation Trucking (HNT)” program. These contracts were reconstruction and developmental to strengthen and rebuild the Afghan state with the assumption to democratize and centralize Afghanistan, ultimately creating a consolidated Afghan state. I used the lens of the “protection money” scheme, a sort of wartime corruption, to argue that the private contractors undermined the state-building process in Afghanistan and, in turn, funded the Taliban and warlord’s insurgency. The competing business interests of the contractors superseded the state-building process and thus created a weak, paradoxical Afghan state.