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Experts Say Afghanistan Needs Regional Solution


Some South Asia experts say Washington should take a "regional approach" to Afghanistan, pulling India, Iran, and Moscow into talks on ways to stabilize the country. On Tuesday, the U.S. newspaper the Washington Post reported that President-elect Barack Obama wants to explore a regional strategy for Afghanistan. VOA's Ravi Khanna reports on what the experts have to say.

The continuing violence by Islamic insurgents on the Pakistan-Afghan border as well as Pakistan's opposition to U.S. missile strikes on suspected terrorist hideouts in the country continue to complicate the conflict.

Associated Press video shows militants inside Pakistan Monday. They hijacked a NATO convoy on its way to resupply forces in Afghanistan.

Some experts say India, Iran and Russia should get involved in a regional solution.

Major General Peter Gilchrist is Defense Attaché at the British High Commission in Washington. He says Washington should coordinate the effort.

"If there is a collapse in Afghanistan," he said, "I am pretty certain that you will find a similar activity happening in Pakistan as well. That will not be in the interest of the world."

Central Asia expert at the National Defense University, Ali Jalali, says Afghanistan needs a regional solution because it has been affected by other conflicts in the region.

"It is India-Pakistan conflict," Jalali noted. "It is Iran's opposition to the United States, it is Russian conflict with NATO and of course there are conflicts inside Afghanistan."

A senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Lisa Curtis, says Pakistan is suspicious because India has been increasing the number of its consulates in Afghanistan.


"It seems that the Indo-Pakistan historical rivalry is now playing itself out in Afghanistan, unfortunately," she said. "There is a great deal of suspicion among Pakistanis on India's increased footprint in Afghanistan."

At the 2001 Bonn Conference, Curtis says Iran helped establish a government in Afghanistan. But now Curtis claims Iran is attempting to supply arms to the Taliban.

Iran has been pushing to build a gas pipeline through Pakistan to India. Some experts say Iran fears if Afghanistan is stabilized, a U.S.-backed pipeline from Turkmenistan to India would be built instead.

As for Russia, Curtis says Moscow wants to settle scores with NATO by depriving it of success in Afghanistan.

"They see Afghanistan as a way to sort of needle the US if they want to because of the larger issue of NATO and missile defense," she explained.

NATO forces in Afghanistan, meanwhile, continue their assaults on Taliban positions.

Experts say they hope the Obama administration will appoint a special envoy to deal with the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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