U.S. Expert on Afghanistan Visits UVU

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The UVU Center for Constitutional Studies hosted a visit from Dr. Roger Kangas, a leading U.S. expert on Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Kangas currently is the academic dean and professor of Central Asian studies at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

Kangas came to the school on February 25 and during his time at UVU he offered his insight on a number of political challenges, including a lecture on Post-2014 Afghanistan.

In his lecture, Kangas gave an overview of the potential Afghanistan has but also struggles they will be facing for this year and the future.

“There are dozens of countries contributing to Afghanistan currently,” said. Kangas.  “These countries are contributing security forces, humanitarian assistance forces, educational forces, ‘reconstructional’ forces.  Or let’s be honest, constructional forces.  We aren’t rebuilding Afghanistan.  We are building Afghanistan.”

Aid from allies and neighbors were things Kangas explained as being crucial to a successful future for Afghanistan.  According to Kangas, Pakistan’s support in particular, will be vital for Afghanistan and that Pakistan feels they need Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has it’s own security interests,” said Kangas.  “Would they like to control Afghanistan?  There is that discussion of course, sort of an elder brother/younger brother relationship.  They see Afghanistan as their strategic depth [… ] If India were to ever attack Pakistan, Pakistani’s believe they may need strategic depth to include Afghanistan to help survive as a nation.”

A key source of strength for Afghanistan’s growth that Kangas cited is their ability to play a part in a modern-day ‘silk road’.  Kangas explained that following the U.S.’s military action in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks, a military supply route in northern Afghanistan was developed.  This supply route can now be used to keep Afghanistan better connected to its neighbors.

“The optimistic idea is that this will some how keep Afghanistan tied to the rest of the world,” said Kangas ”So they’re not going devolve into some chaotic realm.  As we’ve been reading the news and watching the news over the last few days, we see that so much of this is contingent on our presence.  This was always contingent on a small force of Western forces; U.S. European, I would say others as well.”

Kangas also cited Russia, China, and Iraq as being important factors for a prosperous Afghanistan in the future.

After his lecture, Kangas took time to answer questions from members of the audience.  One question asked to Kangas was what his ideal vision for Afghanistan is for over the next 10 years.  In response to that question Kangas said he feels Afghanistan will likely be a poor country during that time, what he wants to see is an Afghanistan that is not a threat to its neighbors and focusing on it’s potential strengths like it’s mining opportunities.

“What you may see is an Afghanistan that is trying to develop with limited abilities to get raw materials out,” said Kangas.

Kangas has held a number of previous positions that highlight his experience and knowledge of foreign affairs on matters involving Afghanistan and Central Asia.  Prior to his current occupation he served as a professor of Central Asian Studies at the George C Marshall Center for European Security in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Kangas has also served as the Central Asian Course Coordinator at the Foreign Service Institute for the U.S. Department of State, a research analyst on Central Asian affairs for the Open Media Research Institute, and has been an advisor for NATO and the International Security Assistance Force.

UVU students working with the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy, Department of History and Political Science, and the Center for Constitutional Studies organized the financial support, logistics, and other planning necessary for this visit from Kangas.

The visit from Kangas is part of a push from the university to strengthen UVU’s relationship with Central Asia.  Other efforts for accomplishing a stronger tie with Central Asia include UVU recently hosting groups from Central Asia and holding exchange visits between UVU faculty and staff.