In The News

Afghanistan Needs a Surge of Diplomacy

January 27, 2010

The 68-nation London conference at the end of this month will focus on the future of Afghanistan, against the backdrop of major new military commitments by the United States and NATO, promises from the international community of increased civilian assistance, and pledges of new anti-corruption measures from President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

But assuring Afghanistan’s future will require more than a military and civilian surge and better Afghan governance. A diplomacy surge is also required. Specifically, in the words of a recent statement signed by 20 former foreign ministers led by Madeleine K. Albright, “there needs to be a regional solution to Afghanistan’s problems.”

To reach the goal of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, the country must have better relations with its powerful neighbors, including Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and Russia.

Afghanistan’s neighbors have reached the conclusion (some grudgingly) that support for a stable, independent, economically viable Afghan state is preferable to the past three decades of chaos in that country and its spillover effects of extremism and terrorism.

Despite this, the region’s opportunistic states will revive their interference in Afghanistan in the event of a failing Kabul government or an international community that reneges on its commitments to help secure and rebuild the country.

While dealing with the Taliban insurgency must be the first order of business, the best way out of this morass is to return Afghanistan to its traditional policy of neutrality – of noninterference by others in its internal affairs and by it in other countries – and to take Afghanistan “off the board” for future “Great Game” rivalries.

Read the full piece originally published in The International Herald Tribune on January 21.

Asia Foundation trustee Karl F. Inderfurth is the former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and Chinmaya R. Gharekhan served as India’s special envoy for the Middle East and is a former U.N. under secretary general.

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