Einleitung des Herausgebers, Henning Riecke: "Partners for Stability: Afghanistans difficult neighbors"
The civil war in Afghanistan has created trans-border problems for all its neighboring countries as well as for the regional powers not directly bordering the country. Each of these neighbors tries to exert influence in Afghanistan, through ethnic networks, economic investment and development aid, but also with financial and material assistance for political and militant groups. Only in the past two years have processes begun to build up institutional frameworks for the neighbors to coordinate activities among themselves and with the Western states leading in International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan (ISAF). But hopes are dim, old animosities and mistrust hamper profound cooperation. That is all the more worrisome, because the policies of the regional players will be a primary factor for the political development in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Western combat forces in 2014.
The purpose of this collection of articles, produced in a project funded by the German Marshall Fund of the U. S., has been to learn more about the intricacies of the neighborhood strategies in Afghanistan, but also to detect the conflicts and frictions among the transatlantic partners in defining a regional approach. Accordingly, the questions posed to the authors from the USA and Germany, from most of Afghanistan’s neighbors and from International Organizations active in the country focus both on the regional situation as well as on transatlantic cooperation: What role can Afghanistan’s neighbors and regional powers play in the country’s stabilization? What specific approaches can be designed to improve their role? What options exist to foster transnational or regional cooperation among neighboring states and Afghanistan? What interests guide transatlantic cooperation with regard to Afghanistan’s neighbors? Where are areas of agreement or dispute?
In Afghanistan’s history, great powers from the near and far abroad played a crucial role, but could never occupy the country for long. Not so much as invaders, neighbors have offered themselves as trading partners and investors, using Afghanistan’s strategic position for transit and trade, and as stake holders in political power brokering. Most importantly, cultural and ethnic ties have connected people on both sides of the respective borders, often with a binding power greater than the loyalty to the state itself. The neighbors are, thus, intrinsically linked with the Afghan political system and society.
In the light of this historical experience—that competing interests of strong neighbors and outside powers have fueled internal conflicts—Afghanistan itself has a vital interest in a regional approach. The landlocked country needs peaceful relations with its neighbors and a balanced system to resolve conflicts and respond to their claims. “The future we are trying to build in Afghanistan is one that we will share in peace with Pakistan, with Iran, with our neighbors to our north, and with China, India and Russia, and it is a future that we cannot build without the goodwill and support of these neighbors.” said President Hamid Karzai at a UN conference in March 2009.1
- 1. Statement By His Excellency Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, International Conference on Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context, The Hague, 3/31/2009 <http://www.afghanistan-un.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/karzai-at-hague....