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  • Author: Thomas Waldman
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: This article examines the evolution of western policy towards the idea of pursuing negotiations with the Taliban, or 'reconciliation', in Afghanistan and the role that research and expert opinion played in that process. The official western position has evolved iteratively from initial rejection to near complete embrace of exploring the potential for talks. It is widely assumed that the deteriorating security situation was the sole determinant of this major policy reversal, persuading decisionmakers to rethink what had once been deemed unthinkable. Moreover, given the politicized and sensitive nature of the subject, we might expect the potential for outside opinion to influence decision-makers to be low. Nevertheless, this article demonstrates that it would be a mistake to underestimate the role that research and expert knowledge played-the story is more nuanced and complex. Research coalesced, sometimes prominently, with other key drivers to spur and shape policy change. Importantly, it often took experts to make sense of events on the ground, especially where the failure of the military approach was not recognized, understood or palatable to those in official circles. Research interacted with changing events, policy windows, the emergence of new personalities and the actions of various intermediaries to shape emerging positions. More broadly, the case of reconciliation in Afghanistan reveals the difficulties and challenges, but also the variety of opportunities and techniques, for achieving research influence in conflict-affected environments.
  • Topic: Security, Environment
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Richard Gowan
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The World Today
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: Imagine a dystopian future in which NATO, struggling against Islamist terrorism, has to deploy troops on a constant basis across Africa and the Middle East. Then all of a sudden it is struck by a series of calamities: more than 40 personnel are taken hostage in the Middle East, soldiers start dying on a weekly basis on the edge of the Sahara and an operation to handle an outbreak of ebola begins to spiral out of control. NATO, you might expect, would give up in exhaustion. After Afghanistan, western powers have little appetite for quagmires.
  • Topic: NATO
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Africa, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Keating
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The World Today
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: This has been a roller-coaster year for Afghans. It has included vigorous presidential and provincial election campaigns, a protracted political crisis, the formation of a government of national unity, the inauguration of a president with big new ideas, a financial crunch, devastating natural disasters, widening Taliban attacks and a surge in the number of Afghans being killed. Meanwhile, the US-led International Security Assistance Force is winding down and will conclude in December.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States
  • Author: Michael Williams
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The World Today
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: Some months ago while clearing my late mother 's house I came across a stamp album from my school days in the 1960s. There were stamps from 'Croatia ', in reality produced by extremist groups in Argentina, but testifying to the existence of the Nazi puppet state of Croatia (NDH) in the 1940s. But to my surprise, I also found stamps from the 'Alawite State of Syria '. An independent Croatia is now a reality and soon to become a member of the European Union. For that matter we also have states of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo. And the former Soviet Union has broken up into its constituent republics. Who would have imagined this as late as 1990? But maybe the break up of states, whether Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia, and possibly the United Kingdom if Scotland opts for independence in 2014, is a purely European phenomenon?
  • Topic: Government, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Europe, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Argentina, Kosovo, Yugoslavia, Syria, Scotland
  • Author: Paul Cornish, Andrew Doorman
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: When the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition was formed in May 2010 it was confronted with a Ministry of Defence (MoD) in crisis, with armed forces committed to intensive combat operations in Afghanistan and with an unenviable financial situation. Yet within five months the coalition government had published a new National Security Strategy (NSS—the third in three years), a new Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and a spending review. Among the United Kingdom's allies, France and Australia had prepared their defence white papers of 2008 and 2009 respectively in the context of a more benign global economic environment, while the United States used its national security policy of 2010 to provide a strategic overview without setting out in much detail what it would require of the relevant departments. The UK was effectively, therefore, the first western state to undertake a complete defence and security review in the 'age of austerity'. To add to the challenge, the coalition recognized that there were also problems within its own machinery of government, and came up with some novel solutions. In a radical step, it decided that national security would henceforth be overseen by a new National Security Council (NSC) chaired by the Prime Minister. A National Security Advisor—a new appointment in UK government—would lead Cabinet Office support to the NSC and the review process. The novelty of these arrangements raised questions about whether a more established system might be required to manage such a major review of UK national security. Nevertheless, the strategy review proceeded apace.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, United Kingdom, Australia
  • Author: Lee Marsden
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: US foreign policy in the first decade of the twenty-first century has been dominated by religion in a way that would not have seemed possible for most of the second half of the twentieth. Al-Qaeda's attack on the United States in September 2001, the subsequent US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the upsurge in Islamist militancy and the populist overthrow of despotic US allies in the Middle East all focus attention on the importance of religious actors. For much of this period academic interest has centred on radical Islam and the attempts by western governments, and the United States in particular, to contain Islamism through embarking on the global 'war on terror' in its various manifestations, and supporting pro-western despots in the Middle East. While there has also been much interest in the emergence of elements of the Christian right as foreign policy actors, until recently insufficient attention has been paid to the increasing role played by religious organizations in the delivery of US foreign policy objectives. American faith-based International Relations (IR) scholars and political scientists have successfully agitated for an increased religious dimension to foreign policy, in particular in the areas of diplomacy and overseas assistance and development. While such an emphasis is designed to further US foreign policy interests, this article argues that such a policy can be counter productive where these religious actors pursue sectarian rather than secular objectives. Using faith-based initiatives supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as a case-study, the article highlights the potential dangers of faith-based foreign policy approaches.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Travis Sharp
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: The United States has entered a period of strategic change. After spending more than a decade fighting a global counterterrorism campaign and two ground wars, it now faces shifting security challenges. The United States has killed Osama bin Laden and decimated the core leadership of Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups in Pakistan, but regional Al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and the Horn of Africa have taken the lead in planning and attempting terrorist attacks. American troops have left Iraq and are leaving Afghanistan, but 15,000–30,000 may remain in Afghanistan after 2014 to train Afghan forces and strike terrorist cells. Iran continues to pursue the ability to produce nuclear weapons rapidly should its supreme leader decide to do so, further destabilizing a Middle East region shaken by the Arab Spring. China continues to invest heavily in military modernization, raising sharp concerns among its neighbours. North Korea may continue to lash out militarily as its new leader Kim Jong Un seeks to demonstrate control. Last but certainly not least, the global economy remains fragile, the American economic recovery has stagnated, and US policy-makers have responded to rapidly growing American debt by reducing government spending in numerous areas, including defence. The size of these budget cuts may increase substantially in the months ahead.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Africa, United States, China, Iraq, Middle East, North Korea, Yemen
  • Author: Trevor Mccrisken
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: Just a month after entering office, US President Barack Obama spoke at the US Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. His remarks focused on his plans to 'responsibly' end the war in Iraq and to deepen the commitment of the United States to the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. One of the key motifs that Obama used in his speech was that of 'sacrifice'—the need for all Americans to continue the age-old tradition of paying a price for the freedoms they enjoy. As he told the audience of US Marines: 'The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. You know because you have seen those sacrifices. You have lived them. And we all honor them.' He then characterized this notion of sacrifice for one's country as being part of a long tradition that was responsible for the very existence of the United States and an essential guarantor of its domestic freedom:
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Taliban, North Carolina
  • Author: Jasper Humphreys
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: It is a sad and startling fact that the second highest segment of global illicit commerce is in wildlife, dead or alive; in May 2012 the average price for rhino horn was higher than that of either gold or cocaine at US$60,000 per kilo.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Richard Milburn
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: In the past decade there has been an increased realization of the shared geography between biodiversity and conflict, with recent research finding that over 80 per cent of major armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000 occurred within biodiversity hotspots, and 90 per cent of conflicts occurred in countries containing biodiversity hotspots. This finding is accompanied by an expanding body of literature detailing the effects of armed conflict and the post-conflict development process on biodiversity, leading to the observation that 'while war is bad for biodiversity, peace is often worse'.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan