up2date. Das Onlinemagazin der Universtiät Bremen

Land of the One Hundred Thousand Trade-Offs

What is the current situation in Afghanistan? Political scientist Professor Klaus Schlichte from the University of Bremen talks about his insights and ventures a forecast for the future

Research / University & Society

Eleven young people from Afghanistan are currently preparing at the Casa language school in Bremen to begin courses at the University of Bremen in fall. They have been living in Germany since the summer of 2023 in order to continue their academic careers, which they had to abandon after the Taliban came to power. Their stay was made possible by the Ormid Farda Scholarship from the University of Bremen and the HERE AHEAD Academy. In the up2date. article “The Only Chance to Do Something Meaningful” they talk about their experiences. Simultaneously, the up2date. editorial team asked Bremen-based political scientist Klaus Schlichte for his assessment on the current situation in Afghanistan.

Mr. Schlichte, as a professor of International Relations and World Society, you have been researching Afghanistan for many years. What is the current situation in the country?

It is indeed as the media report: The country is devastated. Until the Taliban took power in the summer of 2021, around 80 percent of Afghanistan’s state budget came from Western allocations. These were ceased overnight. The economic situation is a disaster, and the population is in dire need for help. There is a lack of clean water, food, decent roads, heat, and electricity. If the Taliban want to stay in power, they will have to solve these problems. However, there is more at stake. In the previous 20 years, the Americans and their allies had built up a quite a lot of infrastructure in the country. This has led to new expectations among the people. Those in power must deliver to ensure that the people feel that their situation is improving and that there are prospects for development in the country again.

Prospects for development – for example through education? Does this also apply to girls and women?

This is still unknown. The situation for us researchers is extremely difficult, we hardly get any reliable information. I have heard that negotiations are underway with the Taliban to allow girls to go to school again soon, not only at primary school level, but also beyond that. There are still some small NGOs operating the occasional secondary school for girls. But Afghanistan lacks a centralized system. There are isolated regional solutions that are only possible at certain locations because they were negotiated well.

Negotiated? With whom, the Taliban?

Exactly. What many people in Europe do not realize is that the Taliban are not a nationally organized ruling body. There is no central government that could implement anything consistently nationwide. The country is structured on a regional level and the local representatives negotiate with the Taliban leadership. That means, on the one hand, a lot is possible if you happen to have the right kind of people in a local setting. On the other hand, it also means that the conditions are very heterogeneous and not everyone has the same opportunities. Afghanistan is the land of the one hundred thousand trade-offs.

What does this mean in practical terms for the prospects of the younger generation?

That is difficult to predict. Individual success still very much depends on where you come from, whom you are related to, and whom you are on good terms with. But I feel hopeful for the young people in the country. In my opinion, the situation in Afghanistan will eventually stabilize. Iran provides a good example of how situations like these can be eased. Today, the Iranian regime is facing a completely different kind of pressure from the population than it did immediately after the revolution in 1981. They have long been forced to respond to the needs of the people – especially the young generation – in order to retain their power. With this in mind, I see a realistic chance that the scholarship holders and other educated Afghans will one day be able to return to a country that will provide them with career opportunities and a perspective.


Klaus Schlichte has been a professor of International Relations and World Society at the University of Bremen since 2010. In his work at the Institute of Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS), he has been developing a historical-sociological approach to international relations. He has conducted research in Serbia, France, Mali, Senegal, and Uganda, often in cooperation with researchers from the fields of sociology, history, and social anthropology. Before working at the University of Bremen, Klaus Schlichte taught at Humboldt University (HU) Berlin and the universities of Hamburg, Constance, and Magdeburg. From 2001 to 2007, he headed the “Micropolitics of Armed Groups” junior research group at the HU.

Further Information

Klaus Schlichte’s website

Article featuring three Afghan scholarship holders: “The Only Chance to Do Something Meaningful”

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