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The narrative of 'Tribal Breakout' has allowed world historians to avoid narratives of the 'decline of the East' and the 'rise of the West'—but only by casting Afghans as tribals whose incursions destabilized the Asian empires. This essay seeks to retrieve the constructive agency of Afghans during the so-called 'colonial transition' in South Asia. Their seizure of plunder was disbursed via the patronage of commercial groups, while careful economic management even led to economic expansion in a manner typical of some eighteenth-century states, thereby lubricating long-distance trade between south and central Asia. This was part of a process of Afghan state formation rooted in developments within the Mughal Empire, was typical of a process of imperial expansion evident in the histories of other empires, such as the Mughals, Ottomans, and Qing, and, thus, yields much to scholars interested in the patterns and processes of early-modern empires in general.