In late 2001,when U.S. forces expelled the Taliban from Afghanistan, the country appeared headed for a breakup. The United States and the rest of the international community feared that Afghanistan's rival ethnic groups would use their regional power bases to pull apart any unitary state, forming in its place independent ministates or aligning with their ethnic brethren across Afghanistan's borders. At the time, such fears seemed credible: NATO troops were still dealing with the fallout from the violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The Afghans themselves, however, were less concerned about their country dividing. After all,

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