Regional Security

Afghanistan Reconnected


Can Afghanistan’s unique location provide much needed economic stability after the 2014 withdrawal of the international forces? Could Afghanistan's role as the transit route between South West Asia and the Far East, combined with the potential of Central Asia's resources and South Asia's growth, increase economic prospects for the whole region? The EastWest Institute organized a series of high-level discussions to address these and other questions in a forum on Economic Security in post-2014 Afghanistan.

By bringing together high-level political representatives and business leaders from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Central Asia, United Arab Emirates and Turkey, EWI is aiming to identify and promote opportunities for economic growth both in Afghanistan and the region—the “win-win” solutions for the economic security and stability in this part of the world. Over the next 18 months, the process focued on four major areas: infrastructure, energy, investment and water.

The inaugural talks in Istanbul, centered on the issue of infrastructure, included top level representatives of the Afghan government, parliament and private sector; Pakistan’s foreign secretary and business leaders; representatives from the Indian government and commerce; and deputy foreign ministers of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The U.S. and UN representatives for Afghanistan drew from their experiences, together with the representatives from Turkey, U.A.E., Germany, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, ECO and others. For more information, please see the meeting agenda here.

Read our event report.


Film Screening: Two Sided Story


Please join the EastWest Institute and the Parents Circle for a screening of Two Sided Story, a 2012 documentary directed by Tor Ben Mayor and produced by Families Forum, the Israeli Production Company 2SHOT and the Palestinian News Agency MAAN.

The documentary follows the poignant process experienced both by Israelis and Palestinians, while learning and acknowledging the personal and national narrative of the other. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Robi Damelin of the Parents Circle, a grassroots organization for bereaved Palestinians and Israelis. Damelin will discuss her conversations with the Palestinian man who killed her son. Originally from South Africa, Damelin will also speak about her return visit to learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a possible model for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

The Changing Middle East


This event is by invitation only. For inquiries, please email Ms. Lisa Treiling at



Watch the live stream here starting at 9:15AM EST: 


The Changing Middle East - Implications for Regional and Global Politics

The recent turmoil in the Middle East has added an unsettled new dynamic to the long-standing policy challenges in the region. Against the backdrop of perennial concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and capabilities and the Middle East peace process, key regional and international actors are grappling with how to address these new instabilities while assuring regional allies and domestic constituencies that the new dynamic does not need to lead to a further, and possibly irreparable, escalation of tension. And as the U.S. presidential election draws near, President Obama faces a daunting task of balancing election year politics, securing U.S. interests in a shifting Middle East while guaranteeing Israel’s security, and de-escalating tensions with Iran through the framework of the P5+1 negotiations.

Although  the confrontational rhetoric has eased somewhat with the resumption of the P5+1  talks with Iran on its nuclear program, de-escalation – on all sides – will not  come easily. Progress is often fleeting. Domestic politics in key states,  including the U.S., Russia, Israel, Turkey, Iran, and Egypt, further complicate  the search for viable means to lower tensions in the Middle East. These  concerns are likely to continue to consume significant diplomatic energy at the  United Nations across several committees. To help clarify the key issues and  explore policy options in the region, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung New York and the  EastWest Institute will host a workshop in July 2012 with experts from and on  the region. The objective is to engage the New York policy community and foster  a dialogue that looks beyond the common rhetoric to what the international  community and regional actors might do.
The event is planned as a half-day workshop with three panel discussions. The targeted audience will be UN diplomats and the New York-based academic and policy-making community as well as interested media, some 60-80 people in total. The debate will be on the record.
Workshop Topics
Panel I
Unfinished Transformations in the Middle East and their Effect on the Regional Security Dynamic

For Israel, already facing new tensions with Egypt and Turkey, its two most important regional allies, the wave of domestic unrest in the Middle East meant new security challenges and injected greater uncertainty into the regional dynamics. Continuing Western suspicions about the intentions of the Iranian nuclear program further intensified the sense of urgency that the Middle East was at a tipping point. Moreover, the recent unrest has fed into the historical competition over the strategic balance in the Persian Gulf with possibly dramatic consequences for the U.S. strategy in the region. 

Robin Wright, United States Institute of Peace-Wilson Center Distinguished Scholar 
Gökhan Bacik, Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics, Zirve University, Turkey 
Tamim Khallaf, Diplomat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt
Dan Arbell, Minister for Political Affairs, the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. 
Salman Shaikh, Director of the Brookings Doha Center and fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings
Panel II
The Two-Level Game: How are Current Domestic Politics Affecting Foreign Policy Decision-making?
With  the domestic political environment being a crucial factor affecting foreign policy decision making, the stakes for all governments are high. The speakers will explore the difficulties that policymakers in the U.S., Israel, Egypt and  Iran are having in balancing domestic pressures and expectations with the changing  realities in the Middle East.
Jeffrey Laurenti, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation 
Abdul-Monem Al-Mashat, Dean, Faculty of Economics & Political Science, Future University, Egypt
Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, Council on F
Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council 
Ephraim Sneh, Chair, S.Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue, Netanya Academic College
Panel III
Chances for Rapprochement: What Role for Multilateral Initiatives?
The recently re-started negotiations between Iran and the Permanent 5 members of the  Security Council and Germany have helped to de-escalate tension in the region—but  continued progress is far from certain. And these talks alone are not a  sufficient guarantee of long term security. Alternative and more encompassing approaches  that take into consideration the broader security demands of the wider region  need to be considered. This includes processes affiliated with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation  Treaty in the form of the proposal for a zone free of weapons of mass  destruction in the Middle East. A robust regional agreement could usher in intra-regional  cooperation, ultimately building the foundations of lasting peace in the region.
Ambassador Abdullah M. Alsaidi, Senior Fellow, International Peace Institute
Avner Cohen, Senior Fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies
Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Research Scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Rolf Mützenich, Member of the German Parliament (Bundestag), Social Democratic Party (SPD), and SPD's Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
Ambassador Aapo Pölhö, Personal Deputy to the Facilitator on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and all other Weapons of Mass Destruction

Third Consultation on Afghanistan and Southwest Asia


The EastWest Institute will bring together leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the EU, and the U.S. on February 17, 2010 to determine new strategies to ensure security in Afghanistan and its region. This consultation, part of the seventh annual Worldwide Security Conference, is the third in a series of consultations EWI has convened since February 2009 on alternative futures for the stability of Afghanistan and Southwest Asia.

The consultation is an invitation-only event for high-level participants. If you would like to participate, please contact us for more information.


Second Consultation on Alternative Futures for Afghanistan and the Stability of Southwest Asia


PARIS. October 13. At the EastWest Institute’s second consultation on “Alternative Futures for Afghanistan and the Stability of Southwest Asia,” hosted by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speakers pleaded for a more determined process of national reconciliation and a more focused international aid effort in Afghanistan.

The purpose of the event, which builds on the first consultation in Fbreuary 2009, was to highlight views from Afghanistan and its neighbors about measures necessary for stability in the region. It included participants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and international stakeholders including the United States, France, Germany and Russia.

In his keynote speech, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged top Afghan politicians Hamid Karzai and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah to put aside their differences and work together to tackle the current crisis. "Yes, for a national unity government," he said.

Peace Politics, Religion and Reform


Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, visited the EastWest Institute on Tuesday, September 22, for an off-the-record discussion on the OIC’s role in preventive diplomacy around the world.

Ihsanoglu discussed ways in which the OIC and the West can work together to resolve and prevent conflicts of common concern. Brewing conflicts in the Muslim world have a significant impact on the West. Western policies - both domestic and international - have an equally significant impact on the Muslim world. The secretary general discussed strategies that can help build trust, not only between the Muslim world and the West, but also between conflicting parties within the Muslim world. He also spoke about the roles governments, militaries, businesses and civil society can play in this process, as well as the role of international organizations such as the OIC, NATO and the U.N.

Among the topics of discussion:


Ihsanoglu emphasized the importance of the new OIC charter, adopted in April 2008, and the changing role it envisages for the organization.  The OIC has set out to address conflicts between the Muslim world and the West, and also conflicts within the Muslim world.

Ihsanoglu stressed the importance of resolving conflicts within the Muslim world as a means to bridge divides between the Muslim world and the West. Any conflict in the Muslim world will always have an impact on the West, and vice versa.

He pointed to recent OIC successes resolving sectarian conflicts in Iraq. The OIC intervened during severe tensions in 2006 to bring Shiite and Sunni Muslims back together around a common set of agreed principles. This common agreement between the two communities helped start a process of rapprochement between the two and helped reduce sectarian violence in Iraq.

“Some Muslim conflicts can be solved locally, rather than at the global level,” he said, stressing the importance of organic, on-the-ground solutions.

The OIC is now engaged in a similar process in Somalia, where rival factions of Muslims are engaged in a bloody struggle for power.

Turning to Afghanistan, Ihsanoglu urged the creation of a new plan based on socio-economic development and cultural and political reconciliation. The OIC can play a constructive role in promoting such a solution, he suggested, as it is trusted and knowledgeable of local customs.

Socio-economic development

Ihsanoglu briefed participants on recent meetings of the OIC, including a summit in Saudi Arabia that “addressed the challenges faced by the Muslim world in a new, objective way.”

He stressed moderation and modernism as fundamental preconditions for lasting peace in the Muslim world. “We have to modernize to defeat radicalism,” he said.
Ihsanoglu pointed to OIC efforts to cooperate with the U.K. and other western governments to promote socio-economic development, but stressed that different levels of development in most Muslim countries pose unique sets of challenges. “When industrial society completes its development, the challenges change,” he said. “Rural and nomadic societies cannot be expected to behave the same way as in New York or Stockholm. The hotbeds of conflict in the Muslim world will take many years to solve.”

The changing meaning of East and West

Ihsanoglu pointed out that the meaning of East and West has evolved over time, from Goethe’s conception of the East as a source of romance, to Samuel Huntington’s idea of a clash of civilizations. “Why are we always trying to speak about them as different from each other?” asked Ihsanoglu. “Can we not speak also of their affinity?”

Ihsanoglu urged a new approach to East-West relations based on their “affinity and proximity.”

The U.S. and the Obama Administration

Ihsanoglu described the transition of power to the Obama Administration as an important new phase for U.S. relations with the Muslim world. “In Obama, we have a new strategy, new language, good intentions,” he said. “The question now is how to transform good intentions into policies.”

“Our common goal should be making our small fragile planet a haven of peace and prosperity for all,” he said. 

Improving Regional Cooperation on Water: The Helmand, Harirud and Murghab River Basins


On Thursday, June 25, EWI’s Preventive Diplomacy Initiatives hosted the fourth installment of the policy dialogue series, Alternative Futures for Afghanistan and the Stability of Southwest Asia: Improving Regional Cooperation on Water in Brussels. The session focused on the Helmand River Basin, shared between Afghanistan and Iran, and the Harirud and Murghab River Basins, which are also shared with Turkmenistan. Participants considered challenges to cooperative management of these water sources and proposed strategies to overcome these challenges.

This was the final session in a four-part dialogue series convened with the support of Gerda Henkel Stiftung and EWI’s Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention and Human Security.

Improving Cooperation on Water in Southwest Asia: Opening Session


On Thursday, April 2, EWI’s Preventive Diplomacy Initiatives launched a new series of expert dialogues on water security in Afghanistan and the region. The series, Alternative Futures for Afghanistan and the Stability of Southwest Asia: Improving Regional Cooperation on Water, follows a decision by the EastWest Institute’s Parliamentarians Network on Conflict Prevention and Human Security to focus on water security as a critical component of conflict prevention.

The opening session of the series, held in Brussels, brought together leaders and experts from Afghanistan and the region to forge collective action on water – the most critical of natural resources.

The key issues identified at the meeting were:

  • The political sensitivity of the water issue;
  • The potential of collaborative water management as a means to build trust and confidence in the region;
  • The importance of sharing information;
  • The need for better management of water as a precondition for social and economic development; and
  • The connections between water and energy (hydropower).

This was the first in a series of five policy dialogues. Each of the next four sessions will focus on a specific water resource shared between Afghanistan and one or more of its neighbors. The series will produce an action-oriented policy paper and build towards an international conference on regional cooperation over water in December 2009.

Following are the remaining sessions in the series:

  • Thursday, 30 April, 2009: Management of the Amu Darya river and Afghanistan’s relations with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan;
  • Thursday, 28 May, 2009: Management of the Helmand river and Afghanistan’s relations with Iran;
  • Thursday, 25 June, 2009: Management of the Kabul river and Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan;
  • July, 2009 (date to be confirmed): Management of the Harirud and Murghab rivers and Afghanistan’s relations with Iran and Turkmenistan.

Alternative Futures for Afghanistan and the Stability of Soutwest Asia


At an EastWest Institute consultation on Afghanistan, leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the EU, and the U.S. agreed that the world can and must reverse the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the region.

“There have been some positive developments, but things have in certain ways changed for the worst in the last three years,” said Hekmat Karzai, Director of Conflict and Peace Studies in Afghanistan. “We have not had a political strategy to solve the problem.”

David Kilcullen, senior fellow at the EastWest Institute and former advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, added: “The situation in Afghanistan is extremely serious, but it is possible to turn it around provided we make some changes now.”

According to the meeting participants, the most significant change required to improve conditions in Afghanistan is the active participation of the Afghan people.

“It’s all about empowering the Afghan people,” said EastWest Institute Distinguished Fellow Hank Crumpton. “Get the Afghans to protect themselves, build their roads, and grow their food. They want to do it.”

Karzai added: “Many donors do not fund projects that are demand driven – they are desire driven. Rather than you, the outsiders, doing it perfectly, let the locals do it imperfectly.”

“It is no catastrophe today,” said General Philippe Morillon, a member of the European Parliament from France. “But the problem is that our soldiers are more and more seen as occupiers. We have to go faster towards Afghanization.”

Participants agreed that global perceptions can change, and ground realities change with them. Two years ago, Iraq was widely considered a lost cause, while Afghanistan was thought to be a winnable war against extremism. Now, many predict relative stability in Iraq and near disaster in Afghanistan. The international community can transform Afghanistan as it has begun to transform Iraq, but it needs significant political will to do so.

“This is about rebuilding an international consensus on Afghanistan,” said John Mroz, President and CEO of the EastWest Institute. “We have a lot of work to do.”

Consultation participants also included Saleh Mohammed Saljoqi, General Khodaidad, and Houmayoun Tandar from Afghanistan, General Ehsan Ul Haq from Pakistan, Lt. General Satish Nambiar from India, and representatives from the EU, Russia, and the United States.

This event was part of the EastWest Institute's larger efforts to determine alternative futures for Afghanistan and Southwest Asia.


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