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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: 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
  • Author: Trevor Mccrisken
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: It has been almost ten years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon led President George W. Bush to proclaim a 'war on terror'. This article focuses on the difficulties faced by his successor, Barack Obama, as he has attempted to move away from much of the Bush rhetoric and practice of counterterrorism. Obama came to office determined to 'reboot' US counter-terrorism policy so that it would not only be more effective but also more in keeping with what he perceived as the core moral values and principles at the heart of American political culture. For many observers, Obama has not lived up to expectations as he has not made wholesale changes to counter-terrorism policy. This article argues, however, that he always intended to not only maintain but, in fact, deepen Bush's war against terrorism, not because he was trapped by Bush's institutionalized construction of a global war on terror, but because he agrees fundamentally with the core assumptions and imperatives of that war on terror narrative. Nonetheless, Obama promised to continue combating terrorism in ways that were distinctive from his predecessor, not least because a higher moral standard would be applied to the conduct of counter-terrorism. By addressing his policies toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay and torture, and the use of unmanned drone attacks, it is argued that Obama's 'war' against terrorism is not only in keeping with the assumptions and priorities of the last ten years but also that, despite some successes, it is just as problematic as that of his predecessor.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, America
  • Author: Robert Foley, Stuart Griffin, Helen McCartney
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: While the US and British armies have proved adept at fighting high-intensity conflict, their initial performance against asymmetric threats and diffuse insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated how much each army had to learn about conducting counterinsurgency operations. This article examines one important means by which the US and British armies have transformed themselves into more flexible and responsive organizations that are able to harness innovation at the front effectively. It traces the development of the lessons-learned systems in both armies from the start of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq to today. Reform of US and British army learning capabilities offers an important insight into the drivers of military change.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq
  • Author: Rudra Chaudhuri, Theo Farrell
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: Success in war depends on alignment between operations and strategy. Commonly, such alignment takes time as civilian and military leaders assess the effectiveness of operations and adjust them to ensure that strategic objectives are achieved. This article assesses prospects for the US-led campaign in Afghanistan. Drawing on extensive field research, the authors find that significant progress has been made at the operational level in four key areas: the approach to counterinsurgency operations, development of Afghan security forces, growth of Afghan sub-national governance and military momentum on the ground. However, the situation is bleak at the strategic level. The article identifies three strategic obstacles to campaign success: corruption in Afghan national government, war-weariness in NATO countries and insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. These strategic problems require political developments that are beyond the capabilities of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In other words, further progress at the operational level will not bring 'victory'. It concludes, therefore, that there is an operational- strategic disconnect at the heart of the ISAF campaign.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Governance
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan