Business Briefs

Focus on Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan, triggered by the terrible events of September 11, 2001, was widely supported by the international community in 2002-3. This support manifested itself in a large military coalition in the form of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and similarly in support of US operations, to try and enforce peace and oversee an economic, political and social reconstruction campaign. The aim of the campaign is to deny militant Islamists Afghanistan as a home base, and a place to train and plan freely. In achieving this goal, it was always widely assumed that this would result in Afghanistan becoming a democratic, stable and economically viable member of the international community. But there is more at stake in the Afghanistan campaign than just the future of Afghanistan, as the contagion effect of violent and radicalized forms of Islam have taken hold in Pakistan and have now eroded the viability of the Pakistani state.

The conflict in Afghanistan should not be seen as remote from European and American domestic counterterrorism efforts, but rather as an integral part of them (even if public opinion in Europe differs). How the situation in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) develops and whether moderate Islamism prevails in these countries will be strong determinants in the success of the war against terrorism. While this counterterrorism fight is commonly seen as an American concern (and American interests do undoubtedly continue to be threatened by Islamic terrorism), the frontline for this conflict is Europe with its porous borders and large migrant communities.

This brief focuses on several important aspects of the situation in Afghanistan: burden sharing across the coalition, prospects for withdrawal, the transfer of military and government functions to the Afghanistan civilian authorities, the continued problem of opium production, and the virtual collapse of the Pakistani state. The troubles in Afghanistan are a good litmus test of the strength of the Atlantic bridge – the range and extent of cooperation between the EU and the US – on issues of common importance. This paper makes a series of assessments about this relationship and the recent developments, while assuming that much of the background issues are known to readers and do not need restating. 

  • The Military Campaign and State-building Efforts
  • Eradicating the Production of Illegal Drugs
  • The Virtual Collapse of Pakistan
  • Consequences for the Atlantic Bridge


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