Why do people respond differently to an apparently equal security threat, and which factors are decisive in the decision making? The present thesis explores different strategies for coping with an altered security situation among Pashtuns in northern Afghanistan. In 2001 a US-led coalition toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. This had severe implications for persons belonging to the Pashtun ethnic group in northern Afghanistan. The Pashtun constitute the biggest ethnic group in Afghanistan. In the north, however, Pashtuns are a minority, who have traditionally benefited from being associated with the power-holders in Kabul, who have been largely Pashtun. After the fall of the Taliban, all Pashtuns in the north were accused of being loyal to the Taliban, which had drawn most of its support from Pashtuns. The new non-Pashtun power-holders in the north made the Pashtuns in the north targets of severe harassment. The thesis explores how Pashtuns in northern Afghanistan coped with the new political context after the fall of the Taliban.
This is a qualitative, explorative study, drawing on both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources consist of informal conversations and qualitative open-ended interviews with key persons. The secondary sources are made up of reports, surveys, news articles and academic literature relevant to the case.
Drawing on resource competition and political opportunity structure approaches, and inspired by Hirschman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty, three possible response strategies are discussed: subordination, migration and mobilization. Subordination implies remaining in the area and subordinating to the new power-holders. The second strategy, migration, involves leaving the area, and the final strategy is to mobilize against the new power-holders in order to protect or to win back access to resources.
By assessing the costs and benefits of the various strategies, Pashtuns choose the strategy which is perceived as most beneficial. However, if the costs of one of the strategies change, this will influence the relative costs of the residual strategies, even though their actual costs remain the same. I argue that the choice of which strategy to adopt is dynamic, and that people continuously reassess their alternatives, and may combine the various strategies, either simultaneously or in a sequential manner.