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New US Strategies for Afghanistan and South Asia

November 2, 2017

Ambassador James Cunningham, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Israel, and the United Nations
Christoph Duenwald, International Monetary Fund Chief of Mission for Afghanistan
Daniel Markey, Senior Research Professor in International Relations and Academic Director, Global Policy
Rohulla Osmani, Visiting Scholar
Ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne, former US Ambassador to Argentina, Mexico, and Afghanistan
Moderated by Kent Calder, Director of Asia Programs and Director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies

In collaboration with the Center for East Asian Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS Asia Programs hosted a panel discussion on the Trump administration’s strategy for engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia. Ambassador James Cunningham began by describing the current strategy as a revamping of the approach taken by the Obama administration. He commended the White House for clarifying the US position in Afghanistan and for publicizing its next steps in the region. He noted that US troops were never in Afghanistan to “win the war” but rather to secure the country and eventually hand it over to the Afghan forces.

Christoph Duenwald of the IMF highlighted the economic challenges and the efforts of the Afghanistan government to improve conditions. He cited macroeconomic stability and improving conditions for doing business as two of the most important tasks for the development of the country. One particular challenge is the withdrawal of foreign troops, which contributed to the reduction of Afghanistan’s economic growth rate from 14% in 2012 to 1% in 2015.

Ambassador Wayne spoke of the importance of Pakistan as a strategic partner for combating extremism in the region and outlined the ways in which US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had begun to try and build a consensus regarding bilateral and regional cooperation with Afghanistan. He also underlined the importance of strong diplomatic ties with India in addressing challenges in Afghanistan.        

Daniel Markey concluded the panel by highlighting the importance of diplomatic dialog. He criticized the current approach to conflict resolution between the US and Afghan authorities and advocated for greater coordination between the nations' diplomatic and military missions.