The continuing security vacuum, political instability, and economic listlessness in Afghanistan, stand as a testament to the limits of American power and the need to enroll the help of friends and allies to ensure regional peace and stability. The current U.S. strategy for Afghanistan recognizes that while military success against the Taliban and allied militant groups is essential, long-term stability can only come by gaining the support of the Afghan people, which entails providing them greater security, confidence in their government, and economic opportunities. While several of America’s European and Asian allies have contributed troops and financial assistance to Afghanistan, they also recognize the vital importance of Pakistan and the Central Asian states to the success of reconstructive efforts. In particular, the countries of Northeast Asia—China, South Korea, and Japan—have important roles to play in Afghanistan, and their influence is likely to increase as the United States begins to draw down its presence in the coming years. China, South Korea, and Japan are each in a unique position to contribute to Afghan reconstruction and regional security through bilateral programs and multilateral mechanisms that provide both economic opportunities and security.  
Northeast Asia in Afghanistan: Whose Silk Road?” aims to review Northeast Asian interests in Afghanistan, assess their relevance to the United States’ bilateral relations in the region, and explore potential opportunities for expanded cooperation  in the region. It reviews past contributions to Afghan reconstruction made by China, South Korea, and Japan, and analyzes each country’s strategic, economic, and security interests in Afghanistan. By exploring areas of common interest and potential cooperation, this report aims to suggest opportunitiesto expand a multilateral strategy for bringing security and development to Afghanistan in the years ahead.
This paper is a joint publication by the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS and the Center for the National Interest. The research for this paper was generously funded through the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, the Tokyo Foundation, and the China Institute of International Studies.