International conference on problems of Afghanistan to take place in Dushanbe
International Conference "Afghanistan and regional security: 5 years after the Taliban" will take place in Dushanbe on December 11-12. It is to be organized by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Tajik Academy of Sciences, Alexander Knyazev's Public Foundation, and Dushanbe-based Center of Conflict Studies and Regional Research. Here is an interview with Alexander Knyazev, prominent historian and political scientist, Professor of the Kyrgyz-Russian Slav University.
Ferghana.Ru: How representative will the conference be? Who will participate?
Alexander Knyazev: As things stand, only a few scientists study Afghanistan nowadays. We already received confirmation of attendance from the leading Russian specialists - Victor Korgun, Vladimir Plastun, and Vladimir Boiko. We also expect our colleagues from Tashkent, scientists from Pakistan and Iran, Afghani experts and politicians, and some specialists from Europe (from Defence Academy of the of the United Kingdom, London School of Economics and Political Science).
There is, of course, the Tajik school of Afghani studies, which is quite competent and impressive. It never gave ground in the post-Soviet period. We also expect representatives of Tajik state structures like the Drug Enforcement Agency and Energy Ministry.
In short, the guest list is quite competent. I do not think we will be bored there.
Ferghana.Ru: Is there a connection between organization of the conference and, say, some political development or, perhaps, changes in the situation in the region or in the world?
Alexander Knyazev: At first we wanted to organize the conference on October 7, the day the American military operation in Afghanistan began. Difficulties were encountered, however, and the conference would take place in December. It does not really matter, you know. I do not care about numerology. Taking a look at Afghanistan as it is nowadays is much more interesting, I believe - both from the standpoint of its evolution and the influence it exerts at the regional level. Or, for example, from the standpoint of transfer of responsibility for Afghanistan from the United States to NATO - which I actually predicted in 2003-2004.
Again, it is very interesting indeed to look at all of that through the prism of the recent NATO summit in Riga where NATO command all but admitted its helplessness in Afghanistan. I'd even say that Afghanistan is becoming a stumbling stone for the Alliance where Germany and France uphold one position and Latvia with Georgia another.
As I see it, Afghanistan is much more than NATO can handle. The latter does not understand anything in or about Afghanistan. I believe that there are other international structures, better equipped to maintain security of our sub-region. Structures like the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation. As for the presence in Afghanistan of the Americans and NATO troops (that are much worse off nowadays than the Soviet Army once was), it may last years. It's but a means of prolonging the conflict.
Ferghana.Ru: What do you expect by way of results of the conference? Will they have any practical importance?
Alexander Knyazev: What do you expect from a conference of scientists? We will exchange opinions on the situation and the problem and its aspects - from geopolitics to traffic of drugs. The discussion may result in some conclusions and forecasts, or it may not. Materials of the conference will be published in the third issue of "Afghanistan and Central Asian Security", the almanac I've published for over two years now. We will try to impart what is discussed at the conference to general public and here we count on mass media and specifically on Ferghana.Ru news agency. Politicians do heed scientists and experts every now and then, albeit not as frequently as we would like.
Ferghana.Ru: Is the function regular? How often functions like that take place? How helpful are they? And if the function is not regular, shall it be made such? Perhaps, it will help to establish some sort of a permanent Center of Modern Afghani Studies?
Alexander Knyazev: There is no such a center (for Afghanistan or any other country) anywhere in the world. Is it possible at all? The Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences includes the Afghani Sector. It is staffed with very competent specialists, but their capacities are fairly restricted. The situation in the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Tajik Academy of Sciences is similar. That's where our specialists are. In the meantime, Afghani traffic alone poses such a threat to security of Russia, Tajikistan, and practically all of Eurasia, that it sometimes occurs to me that we should spend more on the science working in this field.
A representative conference of this kind took place in Moscow this February - the first such function in years! It was organized by a private business structure operating in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the initiative was never developed. Even materials of the conference were not published anywhere. In other words, something is being done in this sphere but sporadically while what is needed is systematic work. This state of affairs is actually understandable to some extent. Pooling the efforts of Russian and, say, American scientists is not easy. Integration of efforts is only possible and productive when there is commonalty of interests. Our science is too closely connected to international politics. Some countries want to do with Afghani traffic, and others are busy exporting democracy into this country.
Ferghana.Ru news agency is official information partner of the conference "Afghanistan and regional security: 5 years after the Taliban"