This paper considers disarmament efforts in northern Afghanistan as a Tillyean bargaining process between the state and its armed competitors in the absence of strong, pre-existing formal institutions. Contrary to the ambitious aims of DDR and security sector reform, a political deal emerged in Balkh province that drew warlord-commander Atta Mohammed Noor into the state in order to prevent him and his subordinates from undermining it entirely from the outside. Governor Atta has since established a significant degree of surveillance and penetration as a function of managing loyalists who might otherwise pose a threat to the province's stability. He has embraced formal institution-building to an extent but maintains a degree of informal power that ensures his dominance in the region and his influence vis-à-vis Kabul. While the result of this arrangement does not represent ?good governance? in Weberian terms, it has yielded certain dividends for the state and the international community, from security and reconstruction to counter-narcotics, and may represent the best that can be expected under the challenging circumstances of post-2001 Afghanistan.
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