The region’s opportunistic states are liable to revive their interventions in Afghanistanin the event of a faltering Kabul government or an international community thatreneges on its commitments to help secure and rebuild the country. Already there aresome indications that the forbearance shown by neighbors in recent years may beflagging.
Pakistan and Iran offer Afghanistan its most imposing and critical regional bilateralrelationships. Whether they cooperate or create obstacles for Afghanistan’s recoveryis greatly influenced by American strategic policies in the region.
There is widespread belief among Afghans and others in the region that U.S. interestin the country will fade quickly once its major objectives in the region are realized.While an arguable expectation, perceptions alone are enough for many Afghan andregional power brokers to begin to hedge their bets in supporting the Karzai regime.
Afghanistan’s emergence as a regional crossroads for trade and resource sharing in apost-Taliban era remains a distant though hopeful prospect. Endemic economic andphysical constraints and retrogressive political developments block progress towardthe region forming a vital new economic entity.
Landlocked and resource poor, Afghanistan is at risk of unwelcome external influences,its sovereignty and traditions vulnerable. The competition among external powers has attimes enabled the country to enjoy their beneficence. More often, it has suffered at theirhands. For more than a century, Afghanistan served as the classic buffer state betweenthe British and Czarist empires. During the Cold War it was first neutral ground and thencontested terrain between Soviet and surrogate American power. Under the yoke of theSoviet Union’s occupation during the 1980s, at least one-third of the population went intoexile and most of the contested countryside lay in waste. The state itself suffered neardisintegration in a following decade of civil war sponsored in part by regional powers. Bythe late 1990s, Afghanistan hosted the opening salvos in a war between radical Islamistsand their designated, mostly Western enemies. A post-Taliban Afghanistan, still not freefrom conflict, extracts benefits for its recovery from international patrons and hopes forthe forbearance of traditionally predatory regional states.Framing the discussions in this study is the assertion that Afghanistan’s future and thatof the regional states are closely bound. Constructive partnerships involving Afghans andtheir neighbors are essential to regional stability. Just as the capacity of Afghanistan toovercome its political and economic deficits will have deep bearing on the region’s securityand development, the domestic stability and foreign policies of the neighboring states willaffect the prospects for progress in Afghanistan. Many Afghans insist that outside forcesdrive the current insurgency in the country, while for the regional players Afghanistanremains a potential source of instability through the export of arms, drugs, and ideology.The study posits that over much of the last four years Afghanistan’s neighbors haveassessed that support for a stable, independent, and economically strengthening Afghanstate is preferable to any achievable alternatives. None have directly opposed the inter-nationally approved Hamid Karzai as president or seriously tried to manipulate Afghandomestic politics. All have pledged, moreover, some measure of development assistance.Undoubtedly, the presence of foreign military forces and international attention has con-tributed to their restrained policies.The strategic approaches to Afghanistan by its neighbors are, however, always subjectto readjustment. No regional state is prepared to allow another to gain a preponderance ofinfluence in Afghanistan. Moreover, each retains links to client networks that are capableof fractionalizing and incapacitating an emerging Afghanistan. States in the neighborhoodmay well sponsor destabilizing forces in the event that Kabul governments fail over time
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Chairman, PFCEnergy, Wash-ington, D.C. •
President, ACCIONInternational, Boston, Mass. •
By f. Bumprs,
Founderand former President, Peace Links, Washington, D.C. •
Hy J. Burkhr,
Director of U.S. Policy, Physiciansfor Human Rights, Washington, D.C. •
, James R. Schlesinger Professor of StrategicStudies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University •
lur S. fun,
Partner, Williams and Connolly,Washington, D.C. •
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Symur Mrn lps
,Hazel Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University •
Mr l. Mcln,
President, Africa-America Institute,New York, N.Y. •
Brbr W. Snng,
StateSenator and former Lieutenant Governor, Shelburne, Vt.
Mch M. Dunn,
Lieutenant General, U.S. AirForce; President, National Defense University •
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AssistantSecretary of Defense for International Security Affairs•
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