Beyond the News

Each week, two students will pick one or two news article that we will discuss in class. In this section I will summarize our debates and identify the main issues raised in the article(s). Hopefully I will engage students, readers (and maybe authors!) to extend the discussion further, beyond the classroom.

4 Responses to Beyond the News

  1. patriotpaul says:

    I have a friend in Afghanistan who works towards building stability at the sub-national government level. He is currently in Ghazni, though I worked with him in Zabul when he served as a trainer for the newly established ASOP DCC (Afghanistan Social Outreach Program, District Community Council)
    While chatting on Skype this morning, Abid Mohammad asked me what my thoughts were on the on-going Loya Jirga and whether or not I thought that it would be (in his words), “a window towards peace, stability and security” and on the recent meetings of the SCO? How timely I thought it was, seeing as two of our classmates had chosen to discuss the happenings of the SCO for our in class news articles. Here is an educated man of Afghanistan, who is working towards peace and stability where the rubber meets the road, asking me about my thoughts on the Loya Jirga and SCO meetings! I will have to get him on this forum and see if he will participate with us.

    So here goes…

    Dear Abid,

    As for the Loya Jirga, the debate here in America about that situation is interesting. On one side you have some who argue that the approach is negative because President Karzai is circumventing the National Assembly and thereby undermining the democratic process. Others argue that the approach is potentially positive because it is building concensus among the tribal elders, who will be needed if there is ever to be a lasting peace.
    President Karzai has a tough job because he needs to balance the competing interests of developing the new democracy while reaching out to the traditional tribal leaders. Some see this as a balance that cannot be made. I for one believe that for there to ever be a lasting peace, stability and prosperity there must one day be a unification of the new democracy with the tribal leadership structures. That is why I think that the ASOP program is so important; because it is a program that strives to do that at the local level. President Karzai’s calling of the non-binding Loya Jirga is a shrewd political move that has the potential to either strengthen and solidify his position among the tribal leaders if successful (assuming that the 2000 attendees are actual representatives of the Afghan tribal consensus) or weaken his position as seen by the National Assembly if a failure.
    Preliminary reports show that the Loya Jirga has overwhelmingly accepted the vision of an Afghan future proposed by President Karzai and is set to provide recommendations to the National Assembly. Those recommendations could lead to legislative action that will have long lasting effects on the direction Afghanistan takes domestically, regionally, and internationally; and in particular on the long term security relationship between Afghanistan and the United States.
    As for the recent happenings at the SCO, again we are presented with an interesting situation that has vast regional implications. The articles being presented by our classmates this week address the meetings primarily from the perspective of Russia’s endorsement of Pakistan’s application to move from observer status to full membership and the general implications of the SCO becoming a prominent regional multi-lateral geo-political organization with the potential to partner with the US on transnational issues.
    About the Pakistani question, I found it curious that further reporting on the question of Pakistan’s full membership bid could not be found. A news search on the subject overwhelming focuses on the question of Indo-China relations and the Chinese reluctance to support the parallel Indian bid for full membership into the SCO. That is according to India’s former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.
    As we have discussed in recent debates, the threat of an Indo-Pakistani proxy war in Afghanistan is always a potential scenario in the region. Meanwhile, recent political posturing within the SCO suggests a balancing of power. China and Russia are clearly the primary powers within the organization and the nature of their relationships with the remaining states in the region will define the future of regional geo-politics in Central Asia. India remains unconvinced that China is actively pursuing a strengthened bi-lateral relationship, even though Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao commented yesterday in Bali, Indonesia that there are prospects for better cooperation in the future. Meanwhile, Russia continues to posture for a more influential role in the region by playing all sides, speaking out in favor of both Pakistan and India gaining full membership in SCO.
    All of this has tremendous implications for Afghanistan. Increased cooperation between SCO member states has the potential of bringing a windfall of economic development. Regional projects such as TAPI and CASA 1000 could greatly increase employment opportunities in Afghanistan while significantly increasing the availability of natural-gas and electricity to the country. Additionally, greater economic cooperation between the regional powers could also have the effect of dampening the hostilities between India, Pakistan and even Iran (also an observer state in the SCO bidding for full membership), each who have political and security interests in Afghanistan. The SCO role in Afghanistan has been a subject of interest for many years. In 2009, Council on Foreign Relations Central Asia expert Evan Feigenbaum argued in favor of the United States exploring whether the Shanghai Cooperation Organization can become a serious partner in stabilizing Afghanistan. Today the question remains.

  2. Mohammad Nabi Abid says:

    I have no comments now

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