Towards a regional settlement in Afghanistan (Redux squared)

February 24, 2010

arghandabRegular readers of this blog will know we have been talking for a long time about finding a regional solution to Afghanistan. The argument — much touted during President Barack Obama’s election campaign — was that you could stabilise the country if you persuaded the many regional players with a stake in Afghanistan — including Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia and China — to cooperate rather than compete in finding a political settlement to what was effectively an unwinnable war.

The argument looked at best utopian, at worst a description of the delicate balance of power in the early 20th century that was meant to keep the peace but in reality led to the outbreak of World War One.  It is now resurfacing again as public opinion in western countries — including in staunch U.S. ally Britain – turns against the long war in Afghanistan.

As discussed in this analysis, we are now seeing some fresh signs of regional cooperation. The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan hold talks on Thursday to try to break a diplomatic freeze which followed the 2008 attack on Mumbai. And Pakistan and Iran may have cooperated on the arrest of Jundollah leader Abdolmalek Rigi.

The utopian argument may finally about to have its day. That said, none of this is following a U.S. script. So we could also  see — as happened before 1914 — the best efforts at balancing out every nation’s interests turning out for the worst.

(File photo: Children in Arghandab, Afghanistan)

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