01.03.2021

From Uncertainty to Strategy

FES, Afghan and international partners discuss scenarios and policy options for Afghanistan's neighbors and Europe

What are the odds for win-win scenarios in Afghanistan’s Neighborhood?

The conclusion of the US-Taliban agreement in February 2020 and the ongoing withdrawal of US-Forces remain a watershed moment for Afghanistan’s international relations. While it hardly came as a surprise to observers, there is still tremendous uncertainty about the nature of the disengagement, its repercussions on the ground, implications for the engagement of other allies as well as regional security. To maintain and expand the current momentum in favor of a political settlement, credible regional buy-in is key but should not be taken for granted or understood as a linear or uniform process.

Domestic and regional dimensions of the conflict are inseparable

For the last forty years, Afghanistan has been entrapped by one of the world’s most violent conflicts. And yet, it was never Afghanistan’s war alone. On the one hand, international interventions, from UN resolutions to troops from dozens of countries on the ground, foreign assistance to conflict parties or cross border humanitarian aid, have always played a significant role – at times, mitigating, at times, increasing the suffering of the Afghans.

On the other hand, the conflict crossed borders, and its spillover effects are felt throughout its neighborhood and beyond. There is hardly a more abundant and broader dispersed Diaspora worldwide than the Afghan one. Millions of people have fled the country into neighboring countries, and the country’s ongoing economic and governance fragility continues to place it at the center of South and Central Asian drug trafficking.

Reducing violence in Afghanistan and finding a path towards a negotiated settlement between the conflict parties is expected to improve the lives of Afghans and neighbors alike, as it is seen as the number one impediment for economic development and growth. Presumably, only an Afghan state at peace could finally turn to essential issues like demographic and environmental pressures – and contribute in a meaningful way to sub-regional initiatives addressing transborder challenges.

What to expect – and how to react?

While it is widely acknowledged that the US withdrawal is a crucial factor in a shifting security environment in Asia, the direction, outcome, and implications for regional security are not so clear yet. Which are the scenarios that Afghanistan’s neighbors are bracing themselves for? Or the opportunities they seek to benefit from? How will a US withdrawal influence current dynamics of alignment and conflict between Afghanistan’s neighbors? What would various scenarios imply for European interests and policymaking in the region?

Aim and Scope of the Project

The project identifies perceptions, attitudes, and uncertainties among Afghanistan’s neighbors and key regional and international players about the anticipated outcome of the intra-Afghan talks and current as well as future conflict dynamics. What are the scenarios regional players bracing themselves for and how is this influencing their policies? Assuming that the road to stability and peace will be rocky and in large parts untraveled, that Europe will be in no way able to isolate itself from regional developments, and that Afghan elites continue to have a high interest in positive engagement with European actors, a trilateral approach to the abovementioned questions helped:

  • to inform the European debate about Afghanistan and its neighborhood
  • to inform Afghan decision makers about positions and perceptions of key players in the region and beyond
  • to identify common ground and possible areas of conflict
  • to develop future-oriented policy recommendations for decision makers on all sides

In ten virtual events convening more than 150 active and former officials, experts and civil society representatives, project participants were encouraged to compartmentalize and mitigate conflicts with a negative spill over effect into the Afghan theatre and beyond, while at the same time addressing interdependencies and external factors. Several phases of the project aim at increasing particularly Afghan agency in these discussions, establish and strengthen durable networks and understanding between those seeking sustainable peace and stability as a precondition for development and wellbeing for all Afghans.

Report Launch and Webinar - April 22nd, 2021

On April 22nd, FES hosted the authors as well as former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and Afghanistan's State Minister for Peace, Seyed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, and more than 120 participants for the report launch.

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Watkins, Andrew; Sharan, Timor

Neighbors abhor a vacuum

Regional and key partner engagement with Afghanistan after 2021
Kabul, 2021

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Publication Series

A series of policy briefs authored by Andrew Watkins and Dr. Timor Sharan discusses the implications of the US withdrawal and the ongoing Afghan Peace Negotiations on existing policy tools, strategic interests, and challenges for key stakeholders in- and outside of Afghanistan.

Andrew Watkins is a researcher and analyst of Afghanistan’s conflict and prospects for peace, and is deeply engaged in conflict prevention. He has previously worked in Afghanistan for the United Nations, the humanitarian community, the U.S. government and as an independent researcher.

Dr Timor Sharan is the Director of the Afghanistan Policy Lab, an Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the American University of Afghanistan, and was formerly the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Afghanistan.

Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

Afghanistan beyond 2021

Inroads for China's regional ambitions or security spillover?
Kabul, 2021

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Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

Mediator in the making?

Turkey's role and potential in Afghanistan's peace process
Kabul, 2021

Download publication (1,3 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

All quiet on the Eastern front?

Iran's evolving relationship with an Afghanistan in transition
Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6,4 MB, PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

Stabilization and connectivity

Uzbekistan's dual-track strategy towards Afghanistan
Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6,4 MB, PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

A new playbook?

Europe, India, and Afghanistan beyond 2021
Kabul, 2021

Download publication (5,1 MB, PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

Neighbours in a new normal?

Pakistan and Afghanistan beyond 2021
Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6 MB, PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

Meeting in the middle?

Russia, Afghanistan, and Europe
Kabul, 2020

Download publication (5 MB, PDF-File)


Watkins, Andrew; Sharan, Timor

Europe's engagement in Afghanistan post-2021

Uncertainty, pragmatism, and continued partnership
Kabul, 2020

Download publication (5,3 MB PDF-File)


Watkins, Andrew; Sharan, Timor

Afghanistan and the transatlantic relationship

The future of U.S.-European cooperation
Kabul, 2020

Download publication (7 MB, PDF-File)


نشریه به لسان دری - Publications in Dari

Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[All quiet on the Eastern front? : Iran's evolving relationship with an Afghanistan in transition]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (7 MB, PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Afghanistan beyond 2021 : Inroads for China's regional ambitions or security spillover?]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6,8 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Neighbours in a new normal? : Pakistan and Afghanistan beyond 2021]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[A new playbook? : Europe, India, and Afghanistan beyond 2021]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (5,3 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Stabilization and connectivity : Uzbekistan's dual-track strategy towards Afghanistan]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6,8 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Turkey's role and potential in Afghanistan's peace process]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (5,5 MB PDF-File)


Watkins, Andrew; Sharan, Timor

[Afghanistan and the transatlantic relationship : The future of U.S.-European cooperation]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (7 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Meeting in the middle? : Russia, Afghanistan, and Europe]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6 MB, PDF-File)


Watkins, Andrew; Sharan, Timor

[Europe's engagement in Afghanistan post-2021 : Uncertainty, pragmatism, and continued partnership]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (5,5 MB PDF-File)


نشریه په پشتو ژبه - Publications in Pashto

Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[All quiet on the Eastern front? : Iran's evolving relationship with an Afghanistan in transition]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (7 MB, PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Afghanistan beyond 2021 : Inroads for China's regional ambitions or security spillover?]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6,8 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Neighbours in a new normal? : Pakistan and Afghanistan beyond 2021]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[A new playbook? : Europe, India, and Afghanistan beyond 2021]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (5,3 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Stabilization and connectivity : Uzbekistan's dual-track strategy towards Afghanistan]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6,8 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Turkey's role and potential in Afghanistan's peace process]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (5,6 MB PDF-File)


Watkins, Andrew; Sharan, Timor

[Afghanistan and the transatlantic relationship : The future of U.S.-European cooperation]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (7 MB PDF-File)


Sharan, Timor; Watkins, Andrew

[Meeting in the middle? : Russia, Afghanistan, and Europe]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (6 MB, PDF-File)


Watkins, Andrew; Sharan, Timor

[Europe's engagement in Afghanistan post-2021 : Uncertainty, pragmatism, and continued partnership]

Kabul, 2021

Download publication (5,5 MB PDF-File)


Exchange with the European Parliament

On February 12, the Delegation for relations with Afghanistan (D-AF) held an ordinary meeting, inviting inter alia Andrew Watkins and Dr. Timor Sharan for an exchange of views on the security situation and the peace talks in Afghanistan, including regional dynamics and possible policy options for the European Union in Afghanistan and its neighborhood.

 

Data privacy notice for the video

Countries / regions: FES-Categories, Type

Department/Section: FES-Categories, Type

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Afghanistan

Kabul
Afghanistan

+93 (0) 700-280-441
+93 (0) 787-776-611

info(at)fes-afghanistan.org

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