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Afghanistan - Foreign Relations

Afghanistan is an active member of the international community, and has diplomatic relations with countries around the world. In December 2002, the six nations that border Afghanistan signed a 'Good Neighbor' Declaration, in which they pledged to respect Afghanistan's independence and territorial integrity. Neighboring countries, including regional partners such as Russia, Turkey, and China, signed the Istanbul Declaration in November 2011, reaffirming the ‘Good Neighbor’ Declaration and committing to the Istanbul Process for continued regional meetings.

In addition, Afghanistan and its South Asia neighbors meet annually at the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference (RECC), promoting intra-regional relations and economic cooperation. In December 2011, the international community followed up on these regional commitments by meeting again in Bonn, 10 years after the first Bonn conference in 2001 that established Afghanistan's interim government. Participants at the 2011 conference discussed the international community's long-term engagement in Afghanistan and support for Afghan security and development.

Afghanistan continues to be high on the international agenda. Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are prominent among those who do not contribute troops but have an intense interest in developments here.

The international effort in Afghanistan suffers from a lack of coordination, a lack of investment, and certain donors' preference for writing new plans rather than supporting the development of sustainable Afghan institutions and initiatives.

The Stans

Relations with the northern neighbors -- Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan - remained cordial and continued incremental practical improvement.

In order to diversify supply routes to Afghanistan to meet immediate military needs, US military planners adopted the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a commercially based logistical corridor connecting Baltic and Black Sea ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Its establishment also offers an opportunity for intraregional trade. Such commerce can provide sustainable income for Afghanistan and Central Asia, deepen Afghanistan's integration with neighboring states, and contribute to regional stability.

Over the past few years, Afghanistan and its northern neighbors have sought to increase trust and economic cooperation. At last count, 122 Afghan enterprises were registered in Uzbekistan, 39 of which operated with 100% Afghan investment. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are in various stages of supplying electricity to northern Afghanistan and Kabul. Turkmenistan and Afghanistan are seeking closer cooperation through a broad package of mutual cooperation that includes support for a trans-Afghan gas pipeline, transit of Turkmen electricity to neighboring countries through Afghanistan, extension of a Turkmen rail network to Afghanistan, and a common struggle against narcotics and terrorism.

Relations with post-Soviet Tajikistan were complicated by Afghanistan’s role in its neighbor’s long civil war of the 1990s. Tajik insurgents used Afghanistan as a base for military operations, and about 100,000 Tajiks took refuge in northern Afghanistan in the early 1990s. In the early 2000s, Afghanistan sought improved commercial relations; the Tajik-Afghan Friendship Bridge was completed over the Amu Darya River in 2004 to enhance the trade route north into Tajikistan. Relations with Uzbekistan have been limited by the harsh border controls enforced by Uzbekistan to prevent the entry of narcotics smugglers and Islamic fundamentalists from the south and by Uzbekistan’s ongoing support for Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek warlord who controls parts of northeastern Afghanistan. In 2008 Afghanistan joined Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan in a new Inter-Governmental Council to oversee the transmission of electric power within the new Central Asia/South Asia Regional Electricity Market.

Russia

Russia has viewed Afghanistan as a vital region since the early nineteenth century. Relations with the Soviet Union were close until the invasion of 1979, which aroused lasting hostility on the Afghan side. In the early 2000s, official relations have improved as Russia pledged assistance in building Afghanistan’s military and business establishments, clearing landmines, and developing oil and gas extraction. However, residual mistrust has limited improvement.

Russia seeks a stable Afghanistan to minimize the threat of terrorism and stem the flow of narcotics into Central Asia and the Northern Caucasus, and supports Afghan-led reconciliation and reintegration efforts. Also, based on a commitment made at the November 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, Russia continues to expand the types of cargo shipped by rail and air via the NDN and also permits the reverse transit of goods back through the Northern Distribution Network (NDN).

Russia recognizes terrorism as being closely intertwined with narcotics trafficking. Russia’s interest in expanding counternarcotics cooperation has continued with its participation in multilateral meetings, UNODC programs, and calls for greater international support to counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The NATO-Russia Council will also expand its Central Asian counternarcotics program, which trains counternarcotics personnel from Central Asia, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, in Russia, Turkey, and via mobile training teams.

At the December 5, 2011 Bonn Conference, Russia asserted that the SCO should stand as the priority venue to coordinate regional contributions to Afghanistan. Russia has supported Afghanistan’s bid for observer status within the SCO, which remains under consideration by the SCO. This has highlighted the increasingly important role that Russia has placed on regional cooperation mechanisms for economic, development, and security in Afghanistan as ISAF draws down.

UN

The UN has played an important role in Afghanistan for more than 20 years, assisting in the repatriation of Afghan refugees and providing humanitarian aid. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), launched in October 2001, was instrumental in helping restore peace and stability in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, organizing the Afghan presidential elections held in October 2004 and National Assembly elections held in 2005.

On January 28, 2010, Staffan de Mistura of Sweden was appointed as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan (SRSG). In March 2011, the UN Security Council renewed UNAMA's mandate until March 2012. UNSC resolutions authorizing UNAMA have recognized the key role the UN plays in coordinating international efforts in Afghanistan and the critical support UNAMA provides to the Afghan Government on matters of security, governance, and regional cooperation. They have directed that UNAMA and the SRSG continue to lead international civilian efforts on the rule of law, transitional justice, anti-corruption, realizing the Afghan Government’s development and governance priorities, and strengthening cooperation between ISAF and the NATO Civilian Representative to improve civilian-military coordination.



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