BY: BRITA ACHBERGER
On October 30-31, 2018, the EastWest Institute (EWI) convened the third meeting of the Joint U.S.-Russia Working Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan in Brussels, Belgium. Taking place shortly after the Afghan parliamentary elections and before the U.S. midterm elections, Russian and American experts came together to assess security and political developments in Afghanistan and explore the prospects for joint counterterrorism cooperation in the war-torn country. While intergovernmental channels of communication remain largely constrained, the Working Group agreed that Track 2 dialogue remains critical for clarifying each country’s motives and interests, and dispelling misperceptions.
“Afghanistan can be a point of common interest for the U.S. and Russia, and the Joint U.S.-Russia Working Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan remains a critical platform to discuss the concerns perceptions of the two powers in this country and the region,” notes Ambassador Cameron Munter, EWI CEO and President.
Over the course of the meeting, Working Group experts discussed U.S. and Russian perspectives on and approaches to the Afghan peace process, as well as how current U.S.-Russia dynamics affect counterterrorism cooperation in Afghanistan. Experts also exchanged views on regional terrorist networks, border management, terrorist financing, arms trafficking and other means of terrorist support. In the framework of the meeting, the Working Group also had an opportunity to hear perspectives from officials representing the European Union External Action Service and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Working Group aims to generate positive momentum in the U.S.-Russia relationship and drive much-needed dialogue, specifically with respect to counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan. At the conclusion of the project, the Working Group will produce a joint threat assessment, which will provide policymakers with an independent, up-to-date assessment of the terrorist threat in Afghanistan and serve as the basis for future counterterrorism cooperation. The final working group meeting is planned to take place in Central Asia in Spring 2019.