What's the way ahead for Afghanistan in light of the proposed troop withdrawal by 2014? Photo: US army/flickr
On 4 and 5 November, the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH hosted an academic workshop entitled “The other sides of Afghanistan: A regional perspective on security issues in Afghanistan”. It was organized by Dr Stephen Aris and Dr Aglaya Snetkov (CSS) and supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. The focus of the workshop was on the regional dimensions of the security situation in Afghanistan.
Ahead of the proposed US and NATO withdrawal from military operations in Afghanistan by 2014, many analysts are now arguing that the role and influence of regional powers and neighboring states in Afghanistan have become increasingly important and that an effective solution to the current instability in Afghanistan will require a coordinated regional approach. To evaluate the prospects for and likely nature of regional cooperation on Afghanistan, the goal of the workshop was to analyze the perceptions and responses of neighboring and regional states to the security situation in Afghanistan, as well as their views on the implications of the proposed Western withdrawal in 2014. To this end, area studies and country-experts on the states bordering Afghanistan (China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and regional powers and states in close proximity (Russia, India, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) gave presentations about these countries’ perceptions, strategies and policies towards Afghanistan. In addition, experts examined the view and approach of NATO and Afghanistan itself to a regional solution, while regional analysts examined the transnational security and economic dynamics between the states of the wider Afghan neighborhood. » More
Church next to a mosque in Hama, Syria. Photo: fchmksfkcb/flickr
Last month’s assassination of Kurdish activist Mashaal Tammo has put the spotlight on Syria’s almost forgotten Kurdish minority. Their involvement in the uprisings had been considerably low up to this point, propelled by fears that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would ruthlessly put down Kurdish participation in the protests. But after the death of Tammo, a prominent opposition figure and founding member of the Syrian National Council, a wave of outrage has swept across the Kurdish population. This brought about the most intense protests and demonstrations of this ethnic minority since the beginning of the uprisings in March and might just mark a tipping point for the highly fragmented Syrian opposition.
While opposition movements of the Arab Spring have been characterized as heterogeneous and unstructured, Syria’s opposition seems particularly patchy. Approximately 40 percent of the population do not belong to the Sunni majority. Shia Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Jews and Ismaelites all have their own political agendas. One of the main reasons why Assad has managed to remain in power for so long is because he was backed by the country’s minorities. In exchange, he implemented laws and policies to secure the minorities from the Sunni majority. » More
A conference hosted by the NCCR Democracy and the CIS at ETH Zurich
On 27 and 28 October, the NCCR Democracy project managed by the University of Zurich, together with the Center for Comparative and International Studies at ETH, hosted a conference on the topic: “Transformation of the Arab World: Where is it heading to?” Adam Dempsey, Eveline Hoepli, Chantal Chastonay and I covered the event for the ISN.
The conference kicked off on Thursday morning with Roland Popp’s unscheduled presentation, “The Past as Prologue? Regional Dynamics and Revolutionary Trajectories in the Middle East.” Popp, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH and an expert in the international history of the Middle East, stressed the importance of looking beyond the unit-level to understand transformation. Citing the example of Egypt’s 1952 revolution, the fear of Arab nationalism it provoked in the other monarchies of the region, and Nasser’s subsequent isolation (which, as we know, ended up driving him closer politically to the United States), he argued that regional dynamics are essential to understanding many developments whose logic at first appears confined to individual countries. Wise counsel, no doubt, and of obvious significance for the remarks that would follow. » More
A view of Kampala. Photo: hamoid/flickr
On Friday, the 14th of October, the State Department announced that the US was sending 100 military advisers to Uganda. Their purpose: to help African troops pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader, Joseph Kony, whom the ICC accuses of 21 counts of war crimes and 12 counts of crimes against humanity. The deployment follows the unanimous passage and signing into law last year of legislation which makes it American policy to kill or capture Joseph Kony and defeat his army. » More
Elections in Liberia: pointing to the future. Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr
Some degree of controversy is almost inevitable at the annual announcement of perhaps the most prestigious prize in the world. The awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to three women’s rights activists is an undoubtedly appropriate recognition of the role of women in peace building. But opponents of Liberia’s incumbent president, joint-winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, claim that the prize is politically motivated and interferes with domestic politics. With the first round of presidential elections — in which Sirleaf is seeking re-election — taking place only days after the announcement, they fear the timing of the prize for Africa’s first elected female head of state could unfairly boost her prospects.
Whatever. As Liberians go to the polls today, the Nobel Peace Prize is hardly the main reason the international community is watching so closely, and apprehensively. With the images still fresh in our minds of the post-election violence in the Ivory Coast last year (in which Liberians were involved), these second elections since the end in 2003 of decades of civil war are an important test for Liberia’s fragile peace. If the presidential and legislative elections are conducted successfully, i.e. without major incident, then pressure will mount on the UN peacekeeping mission to withdraw. This will no doubt be a delicate undertaking in a country where the presence of international security forces has long been the main guarantor of peace. » More