Analysis: Afghanistan's Troubling Neighbors
Council on Foreign Relations
August 9, 2007
Prepared by: Greg Bruno
Hundreds of Pakistani and Afghan tribal leaders assembled in Kabul at a long-planned peace conference (AP), although the absence of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf was expected to complicate efforts to quell unrest attributed in part to fighters based in his country. The three-day council, or jirga, was billed as an opportunity to ease violence and shore up relations between two of the United States’ key allies in fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz attended the meetings, and U.S. officials said the president’s absence would not derail the peace process. But some questioned the council’s usefulness (FT). “It will be an exercise in futility,” one Western ambassador in Islamabad said.
The jirga in Kabul comes amid a rare rift between Washington and Kabul over Afghanistan’s other highly influential neighbor— Iran. Five years after rising to power, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has largely walked in lockstep (NYT) with President Bush on issues related to terrorism, the opium trade, and the stability of his fledgling government. But the issue of Iran’s influence on the Taliban, discussed in this Backgrounder, has yielded troubling cracks.
Ahead of August 6 talks at Camp David, Karzai painted a grim picture (CNN) of security in his country. Yet he refused to place even partial blame on Iran, repeatedly accused by U.S. intelligence officials of moving arms into the country. In June, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters the steady flow of Iranian-made weapons and bombs into Afghanistan—including explosively formed penetrators, blamed for a growing number of American deaths—have been crossing the border in numbers too large to have gone unnoticed by Tehran.
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