Afghanistan Regional Forum No. 3, December 2012
By Richard Weitz
By making Afghanistan a formal observer and Turkey a dialogue partner at its June 2012 heads-of-state summit in Beijing, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) now has a more comprehensive set of members and affiliates to address Afghanistan’s regional security and economic integration. The move could lay the foundation for a potential greater role for the SCO in Afghanistan, but the content of such a strategy remains unclear and the organization has yet to allocate new resources to sustain these initiatives. Thus far, the SCO has pursued an excessively narrow approach toward Afghanistan that focuses on countering narcotics trafficking and little else. It rarely engages in concrete activity regarding Af-ghanistan besides issuing declarations. The SCO could more effectively achieve its goals in Afghanistan if it focused on developing that country’s legal economy and improving its basic economic infrastructure, including that related to transportation and investments that engender employment opportunities. Measures to promote this goal could include financing joint projects in Afghanistan, reducing barriers to SCO trade with that country, and otherwise helping integrate Afghanistan into the rest of Central Asia to the benefit of the SCO countries as well as Afghanistan.