This chapter lays out the historical and political background for Afghanistan’s fraught relationships to states in its neighborhood. It introduces the analytical framework developed by Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver in their book Regions and Powers (2003), and contrasts that to mainstream analysis, which sees Afghanistan as the center of a wider region. The authors argue that the bilateral relations between Afghanistan and neighboring states is a projection of dynamics elsewhere – within South Asia, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf – and therefore peripheral to more important regional security relations. The failure, in the aftermath of the 2001 intervention in Afghanistan, to foster a regional security cooperation that would contribute to peace and stability in that country reflects the shortcomings of the mainstream analysis. The chapter provides the foundation for an alternative approach, in which a more constructive engagement in Afghanistan by states of its neighborhood relies less on each neighbor’s relationship with Afghanistan than it does on cooperation within each of the three regions that surround it.
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