Skip navigation

Asia after Afghanistan

September 10, 2021

Kent E. Calder Interim Dean, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Joseph Chinyong Liow, Tan Kah Kee Chair in Comparative and International Politics, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Kuni Miyake, President, Foreign Policy Institute, Tokyo, Research Director, Canon Institute for Global Studies
Ambassador David Shear, Senior Advisor, Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies. Former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam
Ashley Townshend, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence, United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney.

On September 10, 2021, the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS hosted distinguished panelists from Japan, Singapore, Australia, and the U.S. to discuss the future of Asia following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. SAIS Interim Dean Kent Calder delivered opening remarks and moderated the event. Kuni Miyake, president of the Foreign Policy Institute in Tokyo and research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies, opened the discussion by noting how everyone in Asia knew the withdrawal was coming and that the region viewed it as a strategic success since it allows the U.S. to "shift from the Middle East to Asia." Miyake warned that America’s failure in Afghanistan might create conditions that force it to become more involved in the Middle East. Concerning Asia, Miyake said, "China will influence Kabul through Pakistan."

Ashley Townshend, director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in Australia, explained that Australia applauds the withdrawal and does not question American commitments abroad. Townshend added the "lack of economic strategy for the Indo-Pacific makes the region uneasy." She also pointed out that only changes to the U.S.’s military posture will demonstrate American resolve.

Joseph Chinyong Liow, Tan Kah Kee Chair in Comparative and International Politics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, noted the region’s most pressing issue is "how the rivalry between ISIS and the Taliban will play out between local insurgent organizations." Liow said he is not concerned with American reliability and reminded attendees that similar concerns about the U.S. emerged following the Vietnam War. He added another issue is “how Afghanistan casts a light on the perennial problem of American domestic politics.”

David Shear, senior advisor at the Reischauer Center and former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, advised that China’s greatest concern is stability, and added that Beijing "is engaging the Taliban, has kept its embassy open, and will influence events through Islamabad." Ambassador Shear explained that the fall of Kabul is a victory for China’s Pakistani partners and a defeat for India. He also said the U.S. needs to increase cooperation with India to counter Pakistan and deter its involvement in Kashmir. Following Ambassador Shear’s remarks, Interim Dean Calder concluded the event by conducting a Q&A session where panelists advocated for greater American economic, military, and diplomatic engagement with the region in their responses to attendee questions.