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  • Author: Bruce K. Rutherford
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: As protests continued in Cairo, questions intensified about when and how President Hosni Mubarak would step aside and what kind of transitional government might replace him. The "key actor" at this time is Egypt's military leadership, which is concerned about growing violence, economic damage, and continued instability, says Bruce K. Rutherford, author of Egypt After Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World. "If they want these demonstrations to end, they can either intervene and use force to disperse the demonstrators or they can ask President Mubarak to leave," he says, which would indicate the army's belief that Mubarak's continued presence is destabilizing. Rutherford says the opposition has organized a ten-person leadership group headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, but that Egyptians are skeptical about the government's offer to open discussions with the opposition because in the past, such dialogues haven't led to any change. He says a possible successor to Mubarak may be former foreign minister Amr Moussa, currently head of the Arab League.
  • Topic: Security, Civil Society, Democratization, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: F. Gregory Gause III
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: There is arguably no more unlikely U.S. ally than Saudi Arabia: monarchical, deeply conservative socially, promoter of an austere and intolerant version of Islam, birthplace of Osama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. Consequently, there is no U.S. ally less well understood. Many U.S. policymakers assume that the Saudi regime is fragile, despite its remarkable record of domestic stability in the turbulent Middle East. “It is an unstable country in an unstable region,” one congressional staffer said in July 2011. Yet it is the Arab country least affected in its domestic politics by the Arab upheavals of 2011. Many who think it is unstable domestically also paradoxically attribute enormous power to it, to the extent that they depict it as leading a “counterrevolution” against those upheavals throughout the region. 2 One wonders just how “counterrevolutionary” the Saudis are when they have supported the NATO campaign against Muammar al-Qaddafi, successfully negotiated the transfer of power from Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, and condemned the crackdown on protestors by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and how powerful they are when they could do little to help their ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Islam, Oil, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Shadi Hamid
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: For decades, U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been paralyzed by "the Islamist dilemma" -- how can the United States promote democracy in the region without risking bringing Islamists to power? Now, it seems, the United States no longer has a choice. Popular revolutions have swept U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes from power in Tunisia and Egypt and put Libya's on notice. If truly democratic governments form in their wake, they are likely to include significant representation of mainstream Islamist groups. Like it or not, the United States will have to learn to live with political Islam. Washington tends to question whether Islamists' religious commitments can coexist with respect for democracy, pluralism, and women's rights. But what the United States really fears are the kinds of foreign policies such groups might pursue. Unlike the Middle East's pro-Western autocracies, Islamists have a distinctive, albeit vague, conception of an Arab world that is confident, independent, and willing to project influence beyond its borders. There is no question that democracy will make the region more unpredictable and some governments there less amenable to U.S. security interests. At their core, however, mainstream Islamist organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan and al Nahda in Tunisia, have strong pragmatic tendencies. When their survival has required it, they have proved willing to compromise their ideology and make di⁄cult choices. To guide the new, rapidly evolving Middle East in a favorable direction, the United States should play to these instincts by entering into a strategic dialogue with the region's Islamist groups and parties. Through engagement, the United States can encourage these Islamists to respect key Western interests, including advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, countering Iran, and combating terrorism. It will be better to develop such ties with opposition groups now, while the United States still has leverage, rather than later, after they are already in power.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: It's tempting to see the 9/11 attacks as having fundamentally changed U.S. foreign policy. It's also wrong. The Bush administration may have gone over the top in responding, but its course was less novel than generally believed. A quest for primacy and military supremacy, a readiness to act proactively and unilaterally, and a focus on democracy and free markets -- all are long-standing features of U.S. policy.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Middle East
  • Author: Walter Russell Mead
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: If it hopes to bring peace to the Middle East, the Obama administration must put Palestinian politics and goals first.
  • Topic: Security, Government, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Amitai Etzioni
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Old international institutions must be updated to tackle transnational challenges. The most promising model for doing so is the Proliferation Security Initiative, a recent cooperative effort to interdict weapons of mass destruction.
  • Topic: Security, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, North Korea
  • Author: Peter FitzGerald
  • Publication Date: 03-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: On 14 February 2005, an explosion in downtown Beirut killed twenty persons, among them the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri. The United Nations' Secretary-General dispatched a Fact-Finding Mission to Beirut to inquire into the causes, the circumstances and the consequences of this assassination. Since it arrived in Beirut on 25 February, the Mission met with a large number of Lebanese officials and representatives of different political groups, performed a thorough review of the Lebanese investigation and legal proceedings, examined the crime scene and the evidence collected by the local police, collected and analyzed samples from the crime scene, and interviewed some witnesses in relation to the crime. The specific 'causes' for the assassination of Mr. Hariri cannot be reliably asserted until after the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice. However, it is clear that the assassination took place in a political and security context marked by an acute polarization around the Syrian influence in Lebanon and a failure of the Lebanese State to provide adequate protection for its citizens. Regarding the circumstances, the Mission is of the view that the explosion was caused by a TNT charge of about 1000 KG placed most likely above the ground. The review of the investigation indicates that there was a distinct lack of commitment on the part of the Lebanese authorities to investigate the crime effectively, and that this investigation was not carried out in accordance with acceptable international standards. The Mission is also of the view that the Lebanese investigation lacks the confidence of the population necessary for its results to be accepted. The consequences of the assassination could be far-reaching. It seems to have unlocked the gates of political upheavals that were simmering throughout the last year. Accusations and counter-accusations are rife and aggravate the ongoing political polarization. Some accuse the Syrian security services and leadership of assassinating Mr. Hariri because he became an insurmountable obstacle to their influence in Lebanon. Syrian supporters maintain that he was assassinated by "the enemies of Syria"; those who wanted to create international pressure on the Syrian leadership in order to accelerate the demise of its influence in Lebanon and/or start a chain of reactions that would eventually force a 'regime change' inside Syria itself. Lebanese politicians from different backgrounds expressed to the Mission their fear that Lebanon could be caught in a possible showdown between Syria and the international community, with devastating consequences for Lebanese peace and security. After gathering the available facts, the Mission concluded that the Lebanese security services and the Syrian Military Intelligence bear the primary responsibility for the lack of security, protection, law and order in Lebanon. The Lebanese security services have demonstrated serious and systematic negligence in carrying out the duties usually performed by a professional national security apparatus. In doing so, they have severely failed to provide the citizens of Lebanon with an acceptable level of security and, therefore, have contributed to the propagation of a culture of intimidation and impunity. The Syrian Military Intelligence shares this responsibility to the extent of its involvement in running the security services in Lebanon. It is also the Mission's conclusion that the Government of Syria bears primary responsibility for the political tension that preceded the assassination of former Prime Minister Mr. Hariri. The Government of Syria clearly exerted influence that goes beyond the reasonable exercise of cooperative or neighborly relations. It interfered with the details of governance in Lebanon in a heavy-handed and inflexible manner that was the primary reason for the political polarization that ensued. Without prejudice to the results of the investigation, it is obvious that this atmosphere provided the backdrop for the assassination of Mr. Hariri. It became clear to the Mission that the Lebanese investigation process suffers from serious flaws and has neither the capacity nor the commitment to reach a satisfactory and credible conclusion. To find the truth, it would be necessary to entrust the investigation to an international independent commission, comprising the different fields of expertise that are usually involved in carrying out similarly large investigations in national systems, with the necessary executive authority to carry out interrogations, searches, and other relevant tasks. Furthermore, it is more than doubtful that such an international commission could carry out its tasks satisfactorily - and receives the necessary active cooperation from local authorities - while the current leadership of the Lebanese security services remains in office. It is the Mission's conclusion that the restoration of the integrity and credibility of the Lebanese security apparatus is of vital importance to the security and stability of the country. A sustained effort to restructure, reform and retrain the Lebanese security services will be necessary to achieve this end, and will certainly require assistance and active engagement on the part of the international community. Finally, it is the Mission's view that international and regional political support will be necessary to safeguard Lebanon's national unity and to shield its fragile polity from unwarranted pressure. Improving the prospects of peace and security in the region would offer a more solid ground for restoring normalcy in Lebanon.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Robert M. Gates, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Susan Maloney
  • Publication Date: 07-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Twenty-five years after its Islamic revolution, Iran represents a challenge and an opportunity for the United States. The issues at stake reflect the urgent and multifaceted dilemmas of U.S. security in the post–9/11 era: nuclear proliferation, state support of terrorism, the relationship between religion and politics, and the imperative of political and economic reform in the Middle East. At this time, as Iraq—Iran's neighbor and historic adversary—embarks on a difficult transition to post-conflict sovereignty, and as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) extends its scrutiny of Iranian nuclear activities, Iran looms large on the U.S. policy agenda. Recognizing this relevance to vital U.S. interests, the Task Force advocates selectively engaging with Iran to address critical U.S. concerns.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: J. Brian Atwood, Robert S. Browne, Princeton N. Lyman
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States will host the G8 Summit at Sea Island, Georgia, in June 2004. Many urgent and critical international issues need to be discussed at the summit, especially developments in the Middle East and in the worldwide war on terrorism. It will be important, however, that the summit also maintain the momentum of the past three years in the G8-Africa partnership. This will reinforce the work of African leaders who are championing democracy, human rights, and good governance. Africa, moreover, figures prominently in the three global issues the United States has selected for the summit: freedom, security, and prosperity.
  • Topic: Security, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, Georgia, Island
  • Author: Frank G. Wisner, Edward P. Djerejian
  • Publication Date: 12-2002
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Today's Iraq debate is understandably focused on the run-up to possible military action. However, the question of how the United States and the international community should manage post-conflict Iraq is even more consequential, as it will determine the long-term condition of Iraq and the entire Middle East. If Washington does not clearly define its goals for Iraq and build support for them domestically and with its allies and partners, future difficulties are bound to quickly overshadow any initial military success. Put simply, the United States may lose the peace, even if it wins the war.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Arab Countries
  • Author: Ted Galen Carpenter, Mark Falcoff, Adrian Karatnycky, Gary C. Hufbauer, Robert D. Blackwill, Leslie H. Gelb, Allen R. Adler, Mario L. Baeza, Philip Peters, Bernard W. Aronson, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, Rodolfo O. De La Garza, Daniel W. Fisk, Craig Fuller, M. Farooq Kathwari, Franklin W. Knight, Susan Kaufman Purcell, Peter W. Rodman, Riordan Roett, William D. Rogers, Alexander F. Watson
  • Publication Date: 01-1999
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: This report addresses the current state and the future prospects for the transatlantic relationship. The broad challenge the U.S.-European partnership faces in the period ahead is threefold: to persuade others around the world in post-Cold War conditions to abide by internationally accepted norms and patterns of behavior and the rules of the international institutions that embody them; to deal skillfully with the emerging new power centers, of which China and India are the most prominent; and to meet the current serious threats to Western interests, especially in the Middle East, when these threats often seem to ordinary citizens more remote, abstract, and complex than during the Cold War. This daunting effort will clearly require transatlantic policies that involve a delicate and flexible combination of incentives and disincentives applied to these other countries in a highly discriminating manner in widely differing circumstances. Designing and sustaining such policies will be no easy task for Western governments with compelling domestic preoccupations in the full glare of the media spotlight.
  • Topic: Security, Cold War, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Bill Richardson
  • Publication Date: 06-1999
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: When I was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I was often inspired by one of the world's most-original humanitarians: Dag Hammarskjold.Each time I return to New York, I'm reminded of his beliefs—of all that we can do when we grasp the past, respect the present, and use the knowledge from both to clarify a vision for the future. When we do so, we often do our best work.
  • Topic: Security, International Political Economy, United Nations
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, Middle East
  • Author: Richard Butler
  • Publication Date: 07-1999
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: After two years as the United Nations' chief arms inspector in Iraq, Ambassador Richard Butler resigned June 30 executive chairman of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM). Butler's departure from UNSCOM, whose operations in Iraq have been suspended since the U.S.-British air and missile attacks in December 1998, coincides with the apparent demise of UNSCOM due to Baghdad's continuing refusal to fulfill its disarmament obligations and the widening rift within the UN Security Council as to how to deal with the government of Saddam Hussein.
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, United Nations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Martin Indyk, Leslie H. Gelb
  • Publication Date: 04-1999
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Dr. Leslie H. Gelb (President, Council on Foreign Relations): Thank you very much, Martin, for that very well formed and important statement, and for giving it here. Let me ask you the first question on Iran-Iraq, and we'll do that for about 15 minutes or so. Do you have to break promptly at two? Why don't we agree that we'll go on to ten past or maybe a quarter past two? Those who have to leave at two, we will understand. Please do so, but we'll continue until about 2:15 p.m.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Costas Simitis, Matthew Nimetz
  • Publication Date: 04-1999
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Ambassador Matthew Nimetz: We'll have questions. Remember, they're on the record. Please stand when I call on you. State your name and affiliation. Make the questions real short.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Richard Butler, Charlie Rose
  • Publication Date: 03-1999
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The following is a transcript of the March 3, 1999, meeting, “A Conversation with Richard Butler,” sponsored by the New York Meetings Program. This event was on the record.
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, United Nations
  • Political Geography: New York, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 01-1998
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Persian Gulf is one of the few regions whose importance to the United States is obvious. The flow of Gulf oil will continue to be crucial to the economic well–being of the industrialized world for the foreseeable future; developments in the Gulf will have a critical impact on issues ranging from Arab–Israeli relations and religious extremism to terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation. Every president since Richard Nixon has recognized that ensuring Persian Gulf security and stability is a vital U.S. interest.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Barnett Rubin
  • Publication Date: 10-1998
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: On August 8, 1998, the Taliban (Islamic student) movement of Afghanistan took control of Mazar-i Sharif, the last city remaining outside their control. 2 In their campaign in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban succeeded in gaining control of nearly all the parts of the country's territory that had remained outside their power since they marched into Kabul on September 26, 1996. Just as the Taliban prepared to campaign for international diplomatic recognition, however, the United States on August 20, 1998, launched a cruise missile attack against camps in Afghanistan that it charged contained the terrorist infrastructure of a movement led by Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile. The United States claimed to have strong evidence implicating bin Laden and his network of exiled Islamists in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7. The United States also raided a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, said to be manufacturing precursors of chemical weapons substances. The Taliban's continued defense of bin Laden and their denunciation of the U.S. raid ruled out any dialogue between the Taliban and the United States that perhaps would lead to U.S. diplomatic recognition and construction of oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan. The Taliban's behavior complicated their relations with regional states as well. Saudi Arabia, one of only three states that recognized the Taliban's government, expelled their diplomatic representative on September 22 in reprisal for the Taliban's continued harboring of Osama bin Laden. Most dramatically, the Taliban's killing of nine Iranian diplomats during their takeover of Mazar-i Sharif has led to an extended confrontation with Tehran. War, or at least military action, cannot be ruled out. During the more than 20 years since the “Sawr Revolution” of April 27, 1978, brought a communist party to power, Afghanistan had moved from one stage to another of civil war and political disintegration, without seeming to get any closer toward peace, political order, or sustainable development. The combination of an inimical regional environment, characterized by unstable strategic and economic competition, with the destruction of much of the country's elites, institutions, and infrastructure, has assured the continuation of war among forces based in different regions of the divided country. The victory of the Taliban may put an end to open warfare, but it is likely to result in continued guerrilla or commando activities. The emergence of an assertive Islamic traditionalism in the form of the Taliban has also placed new obstacles in the way of international humanitarian and peacemaking programs. 3 The division of control over the country had remained relatively stable since the summer of 1997. The Taliban movement, originally based in the southern city of Qandahar, the heartland of Pashtun traditionalism and the homeland of Afghanistan's old royal clan, had conquered the Persian-speaking city of Herat, near the Iranian border, in September 1995. A year later, in September 1996, the Taliban swept into the eastern Pashtun city of Jalalabad and Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, driving out the Tajik-dominated government of the “Islamic State of Afghanistan” that was led by President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud. At the end of May 1997, the Taliban took advantage of divisions within the mainly Uzbek National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (NIMA) to take temporary control of Mazar-i Sharif. This northern city on the border of Uzbekistan was the only major urban center still not controlled by them. The Shia in the city, however, mostly from the Hazara ethnic group, resisted the Taliban attempt to disarm them and drove the conquerors out in bloody battles that killed thousands and may also have led to the subsequent massacre of prisoners. A Taliban attempt to recapture Mazar-i Sharif in September 1997 also failed, largely because of a major resupply effort mounted by Iran. While the Taliban failed in their first two attempts to control the entire North from this urban center, they managed to establish a long-term presence in the area. They gained the support of many of the ethnic Pashtuns who had been settled in the North by the Afghan monarchy and established a political and military base in Kunduz, which was supplied by air from Kabul and, according to some reports, Pakistan. Despite intermittent activity on several front lines (north of Kabul, around Kunduz, northeast of Herat, on the borders of Hazarajat), the lines of control remained relatively stable until the Taliban's new offensive in July 1998. 4 The Taliban have constituted a governmental structure that they call the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Da Afghanistano Islami Amarat). Before the summer 1998 offensive, they controlled the entire Pashtun belt, from Jalalabad in the East, through Qandahar in the South, and on through the Southwest. They also controlled the ethnically mixed, primarily Persian-speaking cities of Herat and Kabul, which border on the Pashtun areas. Finally, they controlled a pocket of territory in the North centered around Kunduz. They thus controlled the highways connecting Afghanistan to Pakistan, Iran, and Turkmenistan, nearly all the Pakistani border, the entire Iranian border, and about half of the border with Turkmenistan. They also appeared to control part of the border with Tajikistan, including the port of Sher Khan Bandar. These areas included all the country's major customs posts except for Hairatan, north of Mazar-i Sharif, which the Taliban briefly held in May 1997. They also controlled the areas estimated to produce 90 percent of Afghanistan's opium poppies, the country's most profitable crop. Taxes on this crop are an important source of revenue for the Taliban, though they strictly prohibit its consumption. The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan and the surrounding region produce slightly more than half the world's supply of this drug. 5 The opposition to the Taliban, known generically as the “United Front,” consisted of several groups controlling different portions of the remaining parts of the country, which are largely inhabited by Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras. After the main Taliban offensive, elements of these groups controlled only a few mountainous areas home to ethnic minorities: Badakhshan and the Panjsher Valley, inhabited by Tajiks, and the Hazarajat, home to the Shia Muslim Hazara ethnic group. Before the Taliban's July-August offensive, the opposition groups had controlled most of the northern tier of provinces from Faryab to Badakhshan (except for Kunduz) as well as the Hazarajat. They controlled the main highway leading to Uzbekistan and the railhead at Hairatan that connects to the former Soviet rail system with links to Asia and Europe. Hairatan is the only major customs post in their region. These territories included about half of Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, the short but logistically and economically important border with Uzbekistan, nearly the entire border with Tajikistan, and a remote, mountainous, and largely inaccessible part of the border with Pakistan (including Pakistan-controlled Kashmir). Even before the offensive, the Taliban appeared to control at least two-thirds of Afghanistan's territory; their own estimates ranged as high as 85 percent. Much of that territory, however, was uninhabited desert, especially in the Southwest. The areas under Taliban control at that time included probably slightly more than half the country's population, which is currently estimated at nearly 24 million. 6 The two largest population centers then under Taliban rule, Herat and Kabul, were largely hostile to them, and the requirements of controlling these areas probably make them more of a drain on Taliban personnel than a source of recruits. These market centers provided significant income, however. The Taliban's main advantage was that they controlled the territory and population in the regions they ruled through a unitary structure, while the opposition remained split and riven by feuds. The opposition was divided into several groups, and each group was further divided into feuding factions. Furthermore, both sides depended to a great extent (though precise data are lacking) on foreign military, technical, and financial assistance. The Taliban are supported and were to some extent organized by Pakistan, with financial support from both official and unofficial sources in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states, while the northern groups have received aid from Iran, Russia, and, to a lesser extent, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The Taliban thus controlled the borders and highways leading not only to their own main supporter, Pakistan, but also to the opposition's main supporter, Iran. Supplying the Taliban was thus easier and less expensive than supplying the northern groups. By late August, the Taliban had control of virtually all the country's airfields except for two in Hazarajat. This effectively stopped aid to any other region. The regional competition results from the reconfiguration of the region after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Iran, Pakistan, and Russia are competing for control over the routes by which Central Asia's oil and gas resources will reach outside markets, which in turn will largely determine what power becomes predominant in the area. 7 The decision by India, followed by Pakistan, to test nuclear weapons has raised the stakes in the region and complicated peacemaking efforts. The independence of ethno-national states in Central Asia has given new prominence to ethnic identities, affecting co-ethnics across borders. And the increasing politicization of Islamic identity has increased the salience of Sunni/Shia sectarian differences. Perhaps the best-known fact about the Taliban is the restrictions they have imposed on women. These restrictions require that women be fully veiled, forbid them most education and employment, and impose strict limitations on their access to public services, including health care. The Taliban have also required men to grow full, untrimmed beards, cut their hair short, and attend mosque. They forbid any social mingling or communication among men and women outside the family. These rules (and others) have led to a series of confrontations with the representatives of the international community, largely the U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) present in Afghanistan. 8 Despite these rules, until the summer of 1998 these international organizations continued to work in Taliban areas; they did not work in most areas controlled by the northern groups. All agencies withdrew from Mazar-i Sharif after their offices, property, and storehouses (including food intended for destitute or famine-stricken areas) were thoroughly looted for the second time in September 1997 (they had been looted previously in May). The United Nations continued to work in Hazarajat, however. Western NGOs left Kabul in July 1998 when the Taliban refused to withdraw a requirement that all the NGOs move to the Polytechnic, a ruined Soviet-built campus in northern Kabul. More Westerners left in response to U.S. warnings about dangers to non-Muslim foreigners during the preparation for the August 20 raids. The Taliban resent the fact that although they have provided security for U.N. and NGO staff and property, the opposition, which has failed to do so, continues to be recognized as the government of Afghanistan by most countries and to occupy Afghanistan's U.N. seat. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Opposition to the Taliban's gender policies accounts for much of the resistance to either recognizing them or vacating Afghanistan's U.N. seat. Indeed, a significant movement has developed in Europe and North America in opposition to the Taliban's gender policies, and this movement, as much as the interest in gas and oil pipelines, has placed Afghanistan back on the international radar screen. The Taliban's harboring of bin Laden and his network provides yet another even more prominent reason.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Taliban, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Barnett Rubin
  • Publication Date: 10-1998
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Mr. Chairman, thank you for this invitation, and thank you for your continuing work to focus attention on Afghanistan. I have brought a written submission for the record providing background information on recent events in Afghanistan. In my statement I will concentrate on policy challenges posed by Afghanistan to the United States and the international community.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Middle East