The Marshall Center's Joseph Vann, professor of national security studies, speaks to the group during a panel session. The center's Michael Donofrio, counter illicit trafficking studies instructor (right) and German Deputy Dean Dr. Sven Gareis also attended the conference. (courtesy photo)
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia - Thirty-two representatives from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan participated in the "Central Asian Counter Transnational Threats Seminar: Countering Transnational Threats in a Changing Security Environment" in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Aug. 28-31.
Co-hosted by Marshall Center and the Institute for Strategic Studies of Mongolia, with support from the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies and the Near East South Asia Center, this seminar provided a forum for participants to discuss challenges and opportunities that will face the region in a post-ISAF security environment, as well as best practices for countering a variety of transnational security threats.
The workshop followed two regional center events in Mongolia. In fall 2011 the Asia Pacific Center and Mongolia's ISS co-hosted a workshop titled, "Northeast and Central Asia Transnational Security Challenges: Ungoverned Spaces- Physical and Virtual" in Ulaanbaatar. Additionally, in 2009 the Marshall Center and the ISS co-hosted the conference titled, "Present and Future Security Environment in Central and East Asia: Ulaanbaatar as a New Helsinki," which examined security policy cooperation in Central and East Asia, including the potential for Mongolia to play a role in facilitating regional dialogues on difficult or contentious issues.
The purpose of this year's seminar was to provide a regional forum for countries to discuss with their neighbors transnational security threats likely to be faced by the region in a post-ISAF environment. In addition to addressing important transnational security threats such as countering terrorism, countering violent extremism, countering narcotics, and border security, participants were asked to share their expectations of the international community after the transition of security in Afghanistan, as well as their perspectives on possible opportunities for regional cooperation to promote stability in Central- and South Asia.
Most participants took the viewpoint that neighboring countries all have a common interest in stabilizing Afghanistan. They agreed on the critical need to have a stable Afghanistan post-2014 and focused on drug trafficking and extremism as their greatest concerns, pointing toward the need for regional solutions to address these concerns. Participants were also united on the critical importance of stabilizing the country, as they shared concerns that increased instability in Afghanistan could prompt a variety of second-order effects in the region, including increased heroin trafficking, refugee flows, arms movement and the likelihood that violent extremist activity will find a foothold in neighboring countries.
Among the variety of transnational security threats discussed, drug trafficking and radicalization rose to the top of the list of participants' concerns. Finally, participants consistently voiced the preference that the U.S. and other large powers do not take too heavy a hand in influencing the development of post-2014 Afghanistan. They participants advocated the U.S. giving Afghanistan and its neighbors the opportunity to sort out appropriate security arrangements.
The Marshall Center planned several events that continue to address the topic, the first of which was the Senior Executive Seminar on countering violent extremism held Sept. 5-13 in Garmisch, and the next iteration of the course Jan. 15-24 which focuses on the regional challenges and cooperative responses in Central Asia after ISAF.