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NDC - News- Regional Powers and Post-NATO Afghanistan

Regional Powers and Post-NATO Afghanistan

  • 14 Jun. 2021
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  • Last updated: 17 Jun. 2021 14:08

NDC Research Paper 20


The SHAPE-sponsored Resolute Support Strategic Assessment Capability (RS SAC) has, for over a decade, gathered together leading academics, practitioners and thought-leaders on Afghanistan. Supported by Operational Analysts from the NATO Communications and Information Agency, these experts – each an authority in their field – provided SACEUR with periodic, evidence-based and systematic independent assessments designed to challenge, complement or complete NATO’s existing in-house reporting. Such a simple idea, but the deep experience provided by the RS-SAC has been invaluable in providing the SHAPE Command Group with insights and an analysis of strategic risks and challenges facing NATO both in Afghanistan and across the region.

As DSACEUR I was often asked for advice by those deploying to, or working on Afghanistan. My response? First, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so listen. Second, do not be afraid to confess your ignorance. And last – and most importantly – read the RS-SAC Assessments, as the knowledge they contain will make you wise. As a devotee of the RS-SAC, I am therefore delighted to write this foreword and introduce this collection of papers on the future regional context for Afghanistan.

It should not be a surprise that the NATO experience in Afghanistan has much to teach us. After all, the situation in Afghanistan has occupied NATO for almost two decades and will have a lasting impact on how the Alliance thinks and acts as it faces new challenges and threats. Key to NATO’s constancy of purpose over time has been the ability to learn, evolve and adapt. Our experiences in Afghanistan provide an opportunity for NATO to do so again, given the valuable insights and important lessons identified. For example, this volume shows that even when neighbouring states and regional powers may have shared interests in countering terrorism, this is not the same as having shared values. This fact poses real challenges for coordinating an effective response. It also confirms the importance of the regional dimension in our analysis, and the imperative to develop and sustain an understanding of these regional aspects in order to act effectively with or alongside others.

In this collection, the RS-SAC experts, particularly the co-editors Dr David Lewis and Dr Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, identify the key factors influencing the large number of regional actors and how they now see Afghanistan. They also identify what may change as the US and NATO military presence transitions, and what lessons, risks and opportunities NATO should absorb. I therefore recommend this volume to anyone with an interest in Afghanistan, in critical reflection, and the ongoing strategic adaptation of the Alliance.

General (Retd) James Everard KCB CBE
DSACEUR 2017-2020
Allied Command Operations Lead Senior Mentor 2021

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