How is Afghanistan Really Doing?
By: S. Frederick Starr
The Afghan peace talks are the order of the day. The negotiations themselves are wrapped in secrecy. But are Americans (and NATO allies) in a position to evaluate their outcome? This depends in large measure on whether our reigning assumptions about what’s going on in Afghanistan itself are accurate. This briefing paper acknowledges that many of them are; Afghanistan remains a very troubled land. But it also presents evidence that those assumptions are dramatically and woefully incomplete. It argues that important positive developments in the Afghan economy and society have been largely ignored, but are gaining ground over the long term. These in turn demand and justify revisions in strategic thinking in Washington and other NATO capitals.
Americans are well acquainted with the official evaluations of American aid to Afghanistan that have been issued annually by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Based on voluminous data, these reports present a grim tale of malfeasance and corruption. Headings in the “Executive Summary” of the most recent report include “Widespread Insecurity,” “Under- developed Civil Policing Capability,” “Endemic Corruption,” “Sluggish Economic Growth,” “The Illicit Narcotics Trade.” “Threats to Women’s Rights,” “The Challenge of Reintegration,” and “Restricted Oversight.”
The work of the Special Inspector General has been thorough and dispassionate. To be sure, one can challenge his findings in several areas.
By Naveed Ahmad
July 18, 2017, the CACI Analyst
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit admitted India and Pakistan as full members on June 9; and now represents 40 percent of the human population and 20 percent of the global GDP. Russia and China have traditionally used the forum to promote a collective approach to countering NATO policies and advances. Though originally instituted to address separatism, terrorism and drug trafficking, the admission of India and Pakistan may drastically change the character of the grouping. China and Pakistan differ with India on key issues that the SCO aims to achieve. The trio has bitter geographical disputes while differing over the definition of terrorism. Against this backdrop, what kind of challenge can the SCO pose to NATO?
By Eduard Abrahamyan
July 11, 2017, the CACI Analyst
In early March, Georgia’s Defense Ministry announced the details of the NATO-backed Noble Partner-2017 multinational drills, scheduled for July 30. Armenia and Azerbaijan are set to participate in the exercises, along with 11 other NATO partners and allies. Noble Partner will be the first large-scale practical NATO initiative gathering Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani troops to perform a common task. Moreover, Montenegro's NATO accession seems to have renewed the impetus for the South Caucasian states to reengage with the Alliance. However, the question is whether Yerevan and Baku are capable of defying Russia’s potential reaction to their renewed endeavor to cooperate with NATO in terms of joint exercises.
By Boris Ajeganov
January 23, 2017, the CACI Analyst
Foreign investment in Georgia is strengthening the country’s importance in connecting East Asia with Europe, which has positive implications for the broader region. The rise in FDI in commercial and transportation infrastructure in combination with the signing of international free trade agreements will reduce Georgia’s vulnerability in terms of economic and, ultimately, ‘hard’ security. The growing importance of the South Caucasus as node for EU-China trade will weaken Russia’s incentives to undermine its southern neighbors by military, political, and economic means as it has done in the past. Accordingly, Tbilisi’s ability to conduct an independent foreign policy is set to improve despite the absence of Western security guarantees.
By Richard Weitz
January 19th 2017, the CACI Analyst
The Trump administration will soon undertake a comprehensive review of Russia-US relations and U.S. policy toward the rest of Eurasia. Although the new team will presumably consider many options, the president-elect’s statements imply that the U.S. will not soon support further NATO expansion or other actions that would strongly antagonize Moscow. Despite this limitation, the U.S. government will continue security ties with U.S. partners in Eurasia, such as Georgia. In practice, there are a number of steps the U.S. and Georgia can undertake to advance their mutual security.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.