University of Pittsburgh
November 26, 2013

Afghanistan Takes Center Stage in Pitt-Hosted Conference

Free public event to draw diplomats from across the world, including keynote speaker and Pitt graduate Peter Tomsen, Special Envoy to the Afghan Resistance from 1989 to 1992
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—As the United States and its NATO allies move toward a drawdown of forces in Afghanistan in 2014, many questions remain about the role the global community—and the nation’s neighbors—will play in the country in the years to come.

A unique conference hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs will seek to address those questions. “Afghanistan: A Regional Way Forward” will take place Dec. 5 and 6 in Ballroom A of the University Club, 123 University Place, Oakland. The conference is free and open to the public. Registration is requested; e-mail Beverly Brizzi at to register.

The conference will take not only a scholarly view of Afghanistan and the choices its leaders face but will consider the approaches and opportunities policymakers worldwide must now consider and will explore ways that Afghanistan can be seen as not just a source of regional instability but as an asset to its neighbors.

The conference will feature panelists and speakers from across the United States and abroad, including several experts on regions and nations of great significance to Afghanistan, such as South and Central Asia, the Middle East, the European Union, and the states of the former Soviet Union.

The keynote address will be given by Peter Tomsen, a 1964 Pitt Graduate School of Public and International Affairs graduate who served as President George H. W. Bush’s Special Envoy to the Afghan Resistance from 1989 to 1992. Tomsen, whose 33-year diplomatic career has emphasized Asia and the former Soviet Union, is the author of The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers (PublicAffairs, 2011), named one of the top 50 nonfiction books of 2011 by The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle.

The conference panelists include Daoud Yaqub, a native Afghan, who is a 1998 graduate of Pitt’s School of Law and former advisor to the Afghan National Security Council.

“We’re going to be thinking about possibilities for trade, economic development, development of Afghan resources, and generating economic growth inside Afghanistan and talking about ways that it can be an asset to its neighbors,” said conference organizer Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, assistant professor in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. “But we also want to think about regional instability, rivalries with Pakistan and India, and Iranian policy in Afghanistan. It’s also important to consider how regional partners will play different roles in the wake of the drawdown and how that might impact Afghan stability. What should policymakers be doing to ensure the long-term stability of the country?”

A schedule of events follows.

Thursday, December 5

8:00 a.m.
Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30 a.m.
Opening of Conference: Jennifer Murtazashvili and Dean John Keeler, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh

8:45 a.m.
Keynote Address: Former ambassador Peter Tomsen

9:30 a.m.
“Post-U.S. Withdrawal: Realignment of ‘Great Game Players’”
Chair: Peter Tomsen

  • Li Zhang, director of the Institute for South Asia, Sichuan University (China)
  • Oktay Tanisever, Middle East Technical University (Turkey)
  • William Lambert, U.S. Central Command

11:00 a.m.
“Afghanistan Looking Out”

  • Ghulam Faruq Achikzad, Middle East Institute
  • Lucy Morgan Edwards, University of Exeter; author of The Afghan Solution: The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan (Pluto Press, 2011)
  • Daoud Yaqub, former advisor, Afghan National Security Council

12:45 p.m.
“Durand Line and Line of Control in Kashmir”

  • Shirin Tahir-Kheli, former ambassador, advisor to Secretary of State on Women’s Empowerment
  • Dennis Kux, former Ambassador of the United States to Cote d’Ivoire; Senior Policy Scholar, South Asian Affairs, Wilson Center
  • Timothy Hoyt, Naval War College

2:15 p.m.
“Islam and Regional Geopolitical Dynamics”

  • Ahmad Majidiyar, American Enterprise Institute
  • Faten Ghosn, University of Arizona
  • Reza Marashi, National Iranian American Council
  • Stephen Blank, American Foreign Policy Center

Friday, December 6

8:30 a.m.
“Economic Cooperation and Multilateral Involvement: A New Silk Road?”

  • Alexander Cooley, Barnard College/Columbia University
  • Gretchen Peters, author of Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009)
  • Mike Spangler, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Army War College

10:00 a.m.
“Wrapping Up: The Region in 2025”

  • Conference Participants

The conference is sponsored by the U.S. Institute for Peace, The World Affairs Council, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Ridgway Center for International Security Studies, European Union Center of Excellence and European Studies Center, Asian Studies Center, and Russian and East European Studies Center.

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