Afghanistan's 14-year-long civil war erupted in 1978 and ended in the disintegration of a state that was first hyperarmed by the superpowers and then abandoned by them. This text analyzes the part played by international politics in this debacle, discussing how changing patterns of strategic conflict and co-operation have affected international negotiations over Afghanistan from the period of the civil war to the present. Drawing on interviews with officials of the United Nations and of various governments, Barnett Rubin recounts the ultimate failure of the Geneva Accords of 1988 to deal effectively with the Afghans' domestic conflict and to establish US-Soviet co-operation in rebuilding Afghanistan. When the Cold War ended and USSR disintegrated, Afghanistan lost its strategic significance, notes Rubin. The people of this impoverished land were left to fight over their future with sophisticated weapons and little other outside assistance.
Integrating theories of international relations and domestic politics, Rubin analyzes how buffer states are formed through international co-operation, and how this leads to both specific patterns of state formation and particular problems of regime change.