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Title: The utility of coercion theory in the Afghan conflict
Author: Skaar, Steinar
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 3686
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis examines the utility of coercion theory in complex contemporary conflicts through a study of the Afghan conflict as it unfolded in the provinces of Faryab and Kunduz from 2005 to 2012. The last two decades have produced ample examples of incidents where the UN, international alliances or states have found it necessary to use force in order to coerce states or armed groups to stop unacceptable activities or change their behaviour. However, the potential of military force to induce behavioural change in such conflicts is understudied and poorly understood. In the Afghan conflict the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) together with the Afghan security forces applied force in order to influence the Taliban and other groups who violently opposed the elected government to change their behaviour. Although neither ISAF nor the participating nations had articulated a coercive strategy, force was used consistent with coercion theory on a number of occasions. Coercion theory consists of a number of assumptions and presuppositions, the existence of which should be present on the ground for theory to have utility. This thesis argues that these were generally not, or only to a limited degree present in the Afghan conflict. It further argues that in the cases where ISAF and its Afghan allies applied force consistent with theory, it did generally not translate to the desired outcomes, in particular when coercion represented the dominant effort. This thesis consequently argues that coercion theory is not well suited to provide explanatory power to or predict outcomes in conflicts that are comparable to the conflict in Afghanistan. In particular, theory’s presumption of unitary actors, the rationality presumption and the notion of the credible threat is insufficient. Theory’s notion of coercive mechanisms also assumes a connection between human behaviour and what may influence it that is overly simplistic. This consequently proposes a revised set of assumptions and presuppositions as well as a revised understanding of mechanisms that acknowledges that coercion alone is rarely sufficient to instil sustainable change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: D839 Post-war History (1945 on) ; U Military Science (General)