Security questions complicate withdrawal from Afghanistan

The planned 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan of most U.S. military and NATO forces doesn’t come without huge questions that will affect regional and global security, experts at a Kansas University conference said Wednesday.

Graeme Herd, head of the International Security Program at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, speaks on “After Afghanistan: Implications and Emerging Paradigms after Withdrawal” during a conference Wednesday at Kansas University.

“Everybody in the region wants a long-term and stable Afghanistan,” said Marlene Laruelle, a research professor at George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies.

But among nations there are different concepts of stability, said Laruelle in her keynote address at the Kansas Union to the third annual KU-Fort Leavenworth Security Conference.

Since the war began in 2001, the country has undergone positive changes in education, political reforms, health and some women’s issues, but many challenges remain, said Laruelle and Ahmad Majidyar, a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

“These gains and achievements are reversible and fragile,” Majidyar said.

Corruption remains a problem in Hamid Karzai’s government, and Majidyar said he worried about funding cuts to Afghan security forces and police as American and NATO military members leave the country.

Also the Taliban insurgency remains a threat, he said.

“They have a mantra: You have the watches, but we have the time, so we can wait you out,” he said.

States in the region — Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan, India, Turkey and others — also have a vested interest in what happens in Afghanistan for both political and economic reasons, the speakers said.

Some Russian leaders are skeptical and think the United States is in Afghanistan to create “an infrastructure for countering and restraining” China and Iran, said Vadim Kozyulin, director of the Conventional Arms Program at the Center for Policy Studies in Moscow.

And Iran and China both are looking to natural resources in Afghanistan, said Graeme Herd, head of the International Security Program at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

“We really can see how Afghanistan,” Laruelle said, “is in fact a catalyst of a lot of other issues that cannot be solved easily.”

The Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and the Center for Global and International Studies, together with the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth organized the conference.