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Connecting Central Eurasia to the Middle East in American Foreign Policy Towards Afghanistan and Pakistan: 1979-Present

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During the Cold War, United States (US) policies towards the Middle East and towards Afghanistan and Pakistan were largely unrelated. India's non-alignment and relations with the Soviet Union were reasons for close US-Pakistani relations, but the Chinese success in the war with India in 1962 also highlighted the importance to the West of India's position. 1979 marked a major turning point in US foreign policy towards the Middle East and Central Eurasia (CEA) because of the two events which were to shape so much of politics and geopolitics in those regions as well as in the wider international system: namely, the Iranian revolution in February and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December. Taken together, these developments posed a major challenge to US strategy towards the Soviet Union, to the wider Middle East and to relations with China, Pakistan, and India. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan during 1988/89, the US lost interest in Afghanistan and followed the policies of Pakistan for most of the 1990s. Then came 9/11 and President Musharraf took the historic decision to break with the Taliban. In March 2003, the US began its second war against Iraq. Whatever the rationale for the conflict, the outcome has been to turn the future of Iraq into a key fault-line of geopolitics in the Greater Middle East. Now, with the instability following the collapse of the Soviet Empire in CEA, the defeat of the Taliban and the ongoing future of Iraq, the US faces what the Department of Defense describes as an "arc of instability" running from the Middle East through CEA to Northeast Asia. This is the region that lies at the centre of planning for the "long war" announced in the Pentagon's 2006 quadrennial review.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Politics and International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University


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