The Key to Success in Afghanistan
On Wednesday, June 9, 2010 CSIS Russia Eurasia Program and the SAIS Central Asia Caucasus Institute launched their joint report titled, “The Key to Success in Afghanistan: A Modern Silk Road Strategy”. The report was introduced by a panel featuring report co-authors, S. Frederick Starr, Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, and Andrew C. Kuchins, Director and Senior Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as Martin Hanratty, USAID, Senior Development Advisor to U.S. Central Command, Lewis K. Elbinger, FSO and Deputy Political Advisor, U.S. Central Command, and Michael J. Delaney, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for South Asia, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Starr and Kuchins discussed their imperatives for the Obama Administration to develop a regional economic strategy promoting continental transport and trade through Afghanistan. Dr. Starr asserted that this approach must meet the four criteria for success: directly improve the lives of those living in the region, it can be pursued simultaneously with the military strategy and the two would reinforce each other; the Afghan government would have a steady income stream, and the results would be visible in 18-24 months. Andrew Kuchins believes that concentration on transportation infrastructure will ‘unplug’ the Modern Activity Gap and link Afghanistan and the rest of Central Asia more tightly with South Asia, East Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Lewis Elbinger also underscored the role that this strategy will play in Afghanistan’s future and that the Afghan government is on board. Martin Hanratty confirmed that the strategy follows the Afghanistan National Development Strategy with the improvement of putting it into a regional framework that will reenergize existing projects. Michael Delaney continued to emphasize the importance of the regional context and the U.S. commitment to help increase intra-regional trade above the current measly 5%. All panelists agreed that the U.S. is in a unique position to promote this regionally focused plan and solving the public goods problem of the lack of transportation infrastructure that prevents Afghanistan from achieving sustainable economic independence.
Leif Rosenberger, economic advisor to General Petraeus added emphasis to the fact that the strategy is not zero-sum and seeks to include all regional players who have a stake in the success of Afghanistan.
Several questions brought in concerns over various security issues that are undoubtedly valid and valuable concerns. The goal of the strategy is to mitigate security issues by creating economic stakeholders throughout the majority of the region’s population, as well as foreign investors, so that everyone has an interest ensuring the success of the transportation network.