The Roadblock of Contested Recognition: Identity-Based Justice Claims as an Obstacle to Peace Negotiations in Afghanistan


Resistance to negotiation and the continuation of violence dictate the course of events in the Afghanistan conflict. However, several studies have thoroughly explored the interests of the main parties to the conflict and a settlement that respects their key demands is possible. The current military situation resembles a “hurting stalemate,” which according to rationalist assumptions should compel the parties to move toward negotiations. This article argues that the main obstacle to negotiation is an underlying and unaddressed conflict of recognition between the United States, the Afghan government, and the Taliban. While each party believes it is driven by justice claims, they perceive their opponents to be driven by a hostile strategy informed by incompatible interests. Relying on the Cultural Theory of International Relations, this article explores the parties’ motives in the conflict, focusing on the need to strive for esteem and honor. It suggests that the reciprocal acknowledgement of legitimate identity-related justice claims could remove a key obstacle to formal negotiation.

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Last updated on 06/29/2015