What has driven neighboring states to intervene in the Afghan conflict? This book challenges mainstream analyses which place Afghanistan at the center — the so-called ‘heart’ — of a large pan-Asian region whose fate is predicated on Afghan stability. Instead Harpviken and Tadjbakhsh situate Afghanistan on the margins of three regional security complexes — those of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf — each characterized by deep security rivalries, which, in turn, informs their engagement in Afghanistan. Within Central Asia, security cooperation is hampered by competition for regional supremacy and great power support, a dynamic reflected in these states’ half-hearted role in Afghanistan. In the Persian Gulf, Iran and Saudi Arabia fight for economic and political influence, mirrored in their Afghan engagements; while long-standing Indo-Pakistani rivalries are perennially played out in Afghanistan.
Based on a careful reading of the recent political and economic history of the region, and of Great Power rivalry beyond it, the authors explain why efforts to build a comprehensive Afghanistan-centric regional security order have failed, and suggest what might be done to reset inter-state relations.
Kristian Berg Harpviken is Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh teaches at the Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), Paris, and is Associate Researcher at PRIO.
‘A very useful review of regional politics at a time when Afghanistan’s neighbours are more important to its fate than ever before.’ — Antonio Giustozzi, author of The Army of Afghanistan: A Political History of a Fragile Institution