The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) recently organized a policy workshop on how Afghanistan’s neighbors and other regional actors might contribute to building peace and stability in the country. The conference was co-hosted by GSPIA, together with Ambassador Peter Tomsen (a GSPIA alumnus), who served as U.S. Ambassador to the Afghan resistance during the 1990s as well as U.S. ambassador to Armenia. Ambassador Tomsen worked with GSPIA to bring important policymakers together to discuss how regional actors might help Afghanistan move out of its current security and economic dilemmas. Relations between Afghanistan and its neighbors are typically portrayed by analysts and the media in zero-sum terms. The workshop sought to go beyond the stereotypical portrayals of Afghanistan and examine how regional dynamics around the country might contribute to peace and long-term stability in the region.
The workshop brought together experts from the region as well as congressional staffers, policymakers, business groups, journalists, military officers and enlisted soldiers, and students from the 24 universities and colleges in Western Pennsylvania. Together, the group explored security as well as economic development issues in South Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia and the former Soviet Union, and China, and examined interdependencies between countries in the region that can yield positive exchange. The conference specifically raised questions like: How can foreign policy enhance regional stability? How can foreign investment in energy or other sectors leverage exchange and trade between countries? How can mutual security concerns be addressed in a way that promotes peace in the region? Rather than view Afghanistan as a source of regional instability, this workshop explored the ways the country can serve as an asset, rather than just a source of terrorism and instability, to its neighbors.
Ultimately, the event was hailed as a success in producing concrete policy proposals and recommendations to help the foreign policy community address regional solutions to continued conflict in Afghanistan. The conference also served as an important tool in raising general awareness among the public of how regional dynamics around Afghanistan might contribute to peace in the region.