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The Politics of Coalition Burden-Sharing: The Case of the War in Afghanistan

Ashraf, A.S.M. Ali (2011) The Politics of Coalition Burden-Sharing: The Case of the War in Afghanistan. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Why do states join military coalitions? After joining wartime coalitions, why do states contribute differently to support the coalitions? What influences the decision process and the burden-sharing outcome of coalition countries? This dissertation investigates these questions by reviewing the contributions of Britain, Germany, and Pakistan to the U.S.-led War in Afghanistan from October 2001 to December 2010. Conventional wisdom focuses on neo-realist and strategic culture theories to analyze a country's coalition behavior. The neo-realist theory of international relations suggests a systemic level explanation, and argues that the distribution of power in the international system determines the coalition behavior of states. Strategic culture theorists reject systemic level explanations, and argue that neo-realism cannot explain why states, under the same international system, behave differently. They embrace a domestic level analysis, which emphasizes national strategic decision makers, their belief systems, and the organizational culture of the military—in short a 'national style' of coalition behavior. This study demonstrates that both neo-realism and strategic culture fail to offer sufficient explanations for analyzing and predicting the coalition behavior of states. Taking a middle ground, it proposes a neo-classical realist model of coalition burden-sharing. It argues that international systemic incentives and constraints are channeled through domestic political and culture-induced processes to produce unique burden-sharing behaviors for states. My theoretical model examines the effect of three systemic variables - alliance dependence, balance of threat, and collective action; and three domestic level variables - domestic political regime, public opinion, and military capability - in explaining the politics of coalition burden-sharing. I test the model in the cases of Britain, Germany, and Pakistan. My research provides empirical support for the integrated burden-sharing model. It shows that among the coalition countries in Afghanistan, Britain pursued a policy of 'punching above the weight.' The British forces in Afghanistan's Helmand province were overstretched, with few troops and few resources. By contrast, the German forces in Kunduz had mostly pursued a risk-averse strategy. This was due to the imposition of national caveats or restricted rules of engagement, which constrained the ability of the German forces to participate in offensive military operations against the Taliban insurgents. Pakistan joined and supported the war in Afghanistan by severing diplomatic relations with the Taliban; and deploying up to 150,000 troops along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Despite providing critical logistical support, and conducting numerous military offensives against Al Qaeda and Taliban militias in its tribal areas, Pakistan was widely labeled as an uncertain partner with conflicted goals. This was due to Pakistan's overt contribution to the war on terrorism, and its covert support for various Afghan-focused insurgent groups. This dissertation concludes with a brief discussion on the theoretical and policy implications of coalition burden-sharing.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ashraf, A.S.M., asa15@pitt.eduASA15
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKeller, William
Committee MemberSbragia, Albertasbragia@pitt.eduSBRAGIA
Committee MemberWilliams, Philridgway1@pitt.eduRIDGWAY1
Committee MemberSeybolt, Taylorseybolt@pitt.eduSEYBOLT
Date: 28 June 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 5 April 2011
Approval Date: 28 June 2011
Submission Date: 16 May 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: burden-sharing; foreign policy decision-making process; military coalitions; neo-classical realism; neo-realism; strategic culture
Other ID:, etd-05162011-070809
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:45
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:43


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