USIP-CIDOB Round Table Discussion on Sources of Tension in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Regional Perspectives


Round Table Discussion at USIP, Washington DC June 9, 13.00-16.30

Presenters included Scott Smith (USIP), Eduard Soler (CIDOB), Emma Hooper (CIDOB STAP RP Project Director), Gabriel Reyes (CIDOB STAP RP project team member).

Michael Semple (Visiting Professor, ISCTSJ Queens University Belfast; member of STAP RP regional network of experts)) and Malaiz Daud (Associate Researcher CIDOB, STAP RP project team member) presented the first panel “Afghanistan: Heart of Asia or Regional Black Hole?”. Michael Semple focused on the country as an arena for proxy wars by larger countries in the region, important to all but always less important than something else. Malaiz Daud presented his research and analysis on the political leadership of Afghanistan and the future scenarios and type of government the country may have post-2014.

The second panel, moderated by Moeed Yusuf (Director of USIP´s South Asia program) presented two contrasting “Views from Pakistan” by Ambassadors Husain Haqqani (former Pakistan Ambassador to the US; Boston University) and Riaz Mohamed Khan (former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US). Pakistan´s defensive policies have been seen by many as a key obstacle to stability in Afghanistan. Yet, the country has been affected almost as much as Afghanistan by the international effort to rebuild the latter, and sometimes sees itself as a victim of this effort. Yusuf posed questions to the panelists on Pakistan´s use of proxies over the past 5 years in relation to Afghanistan, and how this may change in future; and Pakistan´s own way forward. Ambassador Khan noted that Afghanistan and Pakistan are “conjoined twins”: turmoil in Afghanistan reacts on Pakistan. Encouraging stability in the region will remain a challenge.

The third panel, moderated by Gabriel Reyes, on “Widening the Aperture: Iran, Saudi Arabia, India and Beyond” was presented by Ambassador Roberto Toscano (CIDOB Senior Research Associate and STAP RP project team member) and Marvin Weinbaum (Middle East Institute, member of STAP RP network of experts). The region affecting, and being affected by, Afghanistan goes beyond its immediate neighbours. The issues that drive their policies there are often not directly related to the country itself, but instead reflect the key interests of the most-implicated regional powers. The possibilities of a “win-win” outcome to the convoluted puzzle, and the consequences if not, were examined by the panelists, in relation to Iran, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia in particular. Pakistan has the most to gain from stability, and the most to lose from chaos in Afghanistan.

The Round Table was attended by approximately 35 people.