2015 promises to be a dramatic year for Afghanistan’s relationship with its neigbours, not primarily as a result of the international military drawdown (as most observers have predicted), but due to the new initiatives of an energetic President Ashraf Ghani, as well as the dramatic rise of the Islamic State and the strained relations between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

This Breakfast Seminar is part of the Afghanistan Week 2015. Follow this link for complete programme.

The main purpose of this seminar is to take stock of what is a critical factor in Afghanistan's future political stability, namely the relationships with the countries that surround it, changes in those relations as result of larger political upheavals globally, and the state of regional diplomacy. Afghanistan's renewed regional diplomacy, which has led to a new dialogue with Pakistan, and indications of a dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, has created new hope. Simultaneously, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with reports of local groups in Afghanstan declaring allegiance to it, introduces new challenges. Russia's assertiveness in Ukraine, with a yet unclear response of former Soviet states in Central Asia, also introduces new uncertainties. What does all of this mean for Afghanistan's neighborly relations?


  • Kristian Berg Harpviken: Afghanistan and its neighbors: Framework and recent developments.
  • Cecilie Hellestveit: The rise of the Islamic State, the future of the Persian Gulf, and impacts on Afghanistan.
  • Pavel Baev: Russia's new assertiveness, Central Asian responses, and consequences for Afghansitan.

As a point of departure, Harpviken will challenge the mainstream analyses, which place Afghanistan at the centre – the so-called 'heart' – of a large pan-Asian region whose fate depends on Afghan stability. Based on his work with Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh (to result in a book later this year), Harpviken will instead situate Afghanistan at the margin of three regional security complexes – South Asia, Central Asia, the Persian Gulf – each characterized by deep security contentions, which, in turn, informs their engagement in Afghanistan. For South Asia, Pakistan and India's sustained Afghan engagement can only be understood in the context of their own enduring rivalry. Within Central Asia, security cooperation is hampered by competition for regional supremacy, each country seeking support from global powers, a dynamic reflected in their half-hearted role in Afghanistan. In the Persian Gulf, Iran and Saudi Arabia fight for economic and political influence, mirrored in their Afghan engagements.

The implication of this analysis for policy is that neighborly interference in the Afghan conflict is best addressed by resolving tensions within its surrounding regions. With the 2014 withdrawal of international forces follows a decline in global interest, and neighboring states will step in to fill the void. This happens at a time when the global geopolitical order is in flux, and the neighborhood undergoes dramatic change. Based on a careful account of the recent history, the seminar will focus on why efforts to build a comprehensive Afghanistan-centric regional security order have failed, and aim to offer important clues about which factors will determine the future of Afghanistan's neighbourhood.

A light breakfast will be served from 8.00.