The article offers a review of centre-periphery relations and local politics in the Afghan province of Badakhshan from the 1980s to the post-2001 era. It maps the local powerbrokers and charts the transformations that occurred during this period, with particular reference to the impact of the central government's policies on local political alignments and relations of power. The key argument is that President Karzai's and the cabinet's behaviour towards Badakhshani politics was aimed at re-establishing a patrimonial system, rather than at institution-building as claimed. Unable or unwilling to successfully deal with established local players, Kabul resorted to sponsoring new players in local politics and facilitating their rise in order to weaken more independent powerbrokers. However, a local perception of weakness in Kabul, not least due to uncertainty over the durability of the Karzai administration, led local players, old and new, to behave with very short-term horizons, as 'roving bandits' rather than as 'stationary' ones.
Central Asian Survey (2009) 28 (1) 1-16 [DOI: 10.1080/02634930902771466]