After more than three decades of war and conflict, Afghanistan is back on track towards becoming a functioning state again. Although security and stability have not taken root yet, the first results of peace are tangible. The quality of governance, the judicial system and the development of a durable economy demand much attention. Reconstruction is a process that requires stamina, certainly after all that has taken place in the country. Over the past ten years the Afghans have had to deal with two revolutions and an occupation. Apart from a state that has to be built up, a peace must be estab-
lished, and this requires economic progress and a perspective of prosperity. Afghanistan has potential, but it can only be mobilised with external support and the
cooperation of the region. Peace in Afghanistan is closely bound up with security in the region and the exploitation of the natural resources, in particular, the oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Sea basin and in Kazakhstan. In order to export these raw materials, stability in Afghanistan is essential. Relief of the humanitarian need and democratisation of the country are instrumental in this. Establishing and maintaining peace through the
operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are the consequence. The two operations can be characterised as enforcing ‘order’ (by OEF), and creating the preconditions for the transition to a just society (by ISAF). This article discusses the role of the military instrument, the geo-political dimension of the conflict and the importance of stability for the intervening actors. The author sketches the context of military operations in Afghanistan. Afghanistan in essence is a pre-modern state, with a legacy of war and civil war. In the global security system its function is that of a buffer or insulator state in between regional and world powers. Too poor to develop itself, it needs foreign financial and security assistance, with the Afghan administration and foreign powers sharing the interest to develop the exploitation of natural resources and to make it into a north-south and eastwest energy bridge of pipelines systems. Military, but also diplomatic and intelligence, activities take place against this complex geo-political background.