Topics of Interest

Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes”

“That nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the UK, U.S. and Germany) were extended beyond the 20 July 2014 deadline was neither unexpected nor unwelcome. The parties had made enough headway to justify the extension, which was envisioned in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that was signed in November 2013 and came into force in January, but given the political and technical complexity, they remain far apart on fundamental issues. Unless they learn the lessons of the last six months and change their approach for the next four, they will lose the opportunity for a resolution not just by the new 24 November deadline but for the foreseeable future. Both sides need to retreat from maximalist positions, particularly on Iran’s enrichment program. Tehran should postpone plans for industrial-scale enrichment and accept greater constraints on the number of its centrifuges in return for P5+1 flexibility on the qualitative growth of its enrichment capacity through research and development.” – International Crisis Group

Conflict Alert: Protecting Pakistan’s Threatened Democracy

“A little over a year ago, Pakistan entered an unprecedented second phase of democratic transition, with one elected government handing power to another by peaceful, constitutional means. This fragile transition will be gravely threatened unless a fast-escalating political crisis is urgently defused. The protests rocking Islamabad threaten to upend the constitutional order, set back rule of law and open the possibility of a soft coup, with the military ruling through the backdoor.” – International Crisis Group

Jihadism in Central Asia: A Credible Threat After the Western Withdrawal From Afghanistan?

“The states of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — are closely watching the political situation in Afghanistan, a neighbor with whom three of them share a border. This situation concerns them very deeply.” – Bayram Balci and Didier Chaudet, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Hamid Karzai: ‘I Didn’t See a War in Afghanistan—I Saw a Conspiracy’. An exit interview with the Afghan president

“When we began to fight the Soviets, and when we began to receive funds from abroad as mujahideen, we faced a dual calamity. That dual calamity was an effort by the former Soviet Union, through their communist allies in Afghanistan, to superimpose a structure on the Afghan people. The other part of it was in the form of the supporters of the Afghan mujahideen — U.S., some Western countries, Pakistan especially — trying to superimpose another model on the Afghan people, in which both of them tried to undermine the traditional Afghan social structure, which was a great guarantor of stability and security. And the consequence of that for Afghanistan: massive tragedy, one unseen in the 20th and 21st [centuries].” – Hamid Karzai in an interview with Mujib Mashal, Atlantic Monthly

Is Turkmenistan the next Central Asian tiger?

“The country has been authoritarian and isolationist, but its reforms are beginning to show promise.” – Nicola Contessi, Columbia University

Afghanistan’s never-ending election multiplies causes for concern

“A relatively orderly and peaceful first-round election in Afghanistan this year saw an almost 60% voter turnout in defiance of Taliban threats, symbolizing Afghans’ determination to unite in the interest of peace and stability. The democratic process appeared to have united the country’s factions. However, a second round of election, made necessary because no candidate won more than 50% of votes, crushed the semblance of unity. Those who believed that from diversity and decades of discord a semblance of unity was emerging in Afghanistan proved to be wrong.” – Nipa Banerjee, Centre for International Policy Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada

Disputes Threaten to Derail Audit of Afghanistan Vote

KABUL, Afghanistan — Wrangling over Afghan election results continued Sunday as campaign aides of the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah accused one of President Hamid Karzai’s vice presidents of involvement in fraud in a runoff vote that they say was stacked against Mr. Abdullah. – The New York Times

New ‘insider attack’ in Afghanistan as investigators probe killing of U.S. general

KABUL — A day after a U.S. Army general was fatally shot at a military academy near Kabul, Afghan officials Wednesday reported a new “insider attack” in which a police officer in southern Afghanistan killed several of his colleagues at a highway checkpoint. The police officer in Uruzgan province first poisoned his colleagues’ food, then opened fire on them before fleeing in a police vehicle, Afghan officials said. There were conflicting reports on the number of dead and on whether any of the victims survived. Some Afghan news reports said six policemen were killed, but others said as many as a dozen died. – The Washington Post

Snake-charming the Taliban: Pakistan’s paralysis or fight dilemma

“Pakistan is not only at war with its brand of Taliban, but also with itself. Having lost 48,994 precious lives, including 5,272 law-​enforcement personnel, in 13,721 terrorist attacks between 2001 and 2013, half of the nation – suffering from Stockholm Syndrome – insists on talking with its ‘estranged sons’, while the saner voices demand the forceful extermination of this existential threat.” – Adnan Qaiser, in CDA Institute blog, Canada

Taliban gaining ground as Afghan election audit drags on

“All of the places where the insurgents are showing greater strength this year were previously zones of responsibility for international forces.” – Graeme Smith, International Crisis Group