The Future of Regional Engagement with Afghanistan and the Taliban

Following the U.S. and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban now control the vast majority of Afghan territory and the machinery of government. The country is still highly reliant on outside aid, most of which is suspended. Many countries have chosen to shutter their diplomatic missions, with only China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and a handful of smaller regional countries maintaining embassies and consulates. How will these countries interact with a new Taliban-led government? What leverage might they exert and to what end? What does the regionally-led diplomacy mean for the United States? Join a discussion with Ambassador Omar Samad, who served as Afghan ambassador to Canada and France; Yun Sun, who is a senior Fellow and Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China program at the Stimson Center; Ibraheem Bahiss, who serves as a consultant for the International Crisis Group and has a granular understanding of the contemporary Taliban; and Zahid Hussain, a distinguished Pakistani journalist and author of several books on Afghanistan and Pakistan. The conversation will be moderated by QI’s Anatol Lieven.


Ibraheem Bahiss

Ibraheem Bahiss is a consultant for the International Crisis Group’s Asia program, where he contributes to the assessment of peace and conflict developments in Afghanistan. As an expert in South Asia and the Middle East, he is interested in armed organizations, Islamist politics, Afghanistan, and the Afghan peace process. Various international media and research organizations have published Ibraheem’s work, and he is widely quoted in the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and the New York Times. He earned a bachelor’s degree in law and in political science, as well as a master’s degree in law from the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

Zahid Hussain

Zahid Hussain is a distinguished Pakistani journalist and author of several books on Afghanistan and Pakistan. His next book, No-Win War: The Paradox of U.S.-Pakistan Relations in Afghanistan's Shadow is being published by Oxford University Press in October this year.

Omar Samad

Omar Samad is a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. He is also the founder and president of Silk Road Consulting, LLC. Prior to the Atlantic Council, he was a Senior Afghanistan expert for the United States Institute of Peace from 2012-2013 and a Central Asia Fellow at the New America Foundation in 2013-2014. Samad also served as Afghan Ambassador to Canada from October 2004 to June 2009 and then as the Afghan Ambassador to France from June 2009 to July 2011. In December 2001, he served as the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul and the General Directorate of Information and Media Division until September 2004. Since the 1980s, Samad has been a vocal advocate for freedom and democracy in Afghanistan. He holds bachelor’s degrees in communications and international relations from American University in Washington, DC, as well as a master’s degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Yun Sun

Yun Sun is a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center. She is also Nonresident Fellow with the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution. Sun’s expertise focuses on Chinese foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and China’s relations with neighboring countries and authoritarian regimes. Prior to the Stimson Center, she was a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution from 2011 to 2014 and was jointly appointed by the Foreign Policy Program and the Global Development Program where she assessed Chinese national security decision-making processes and China-Africa relations. From 2008 to 2011, Yun worked at the International Crisis Group based in Beijing, where she was a China Analyst focusing China’s foreign policy towards the developing world. Sun earned her master’s degree in international policy and practice from George Washington University, as well as an MA in Asia Pacific studies and a BA in international relations from Foreign Affairs College in Beijing.

Anatol Lieven (Moderator)

Anatol Lieven is senior research fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He was formerly a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and in the War Studies Department of King’s College London. He is a member of the academic board of the Valdai discussion club in Russia and a member of the advisory committee of the South Asia Department of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. From 1985 to 1998, Lieven worked as a British journalist in South Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe and covered the wars in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and the southern Caucasus. From 2000 to 2007, he worked at think tanks in Washington, DC. Lieven is author of several books on Russia and its neighbors and his latest book, Climate Change and the Nation State, was published in March 2020 by Penguin in the UK and Oxford University Press in the USA. An updated paperback edition will be published in Fall 2021. He holds a BA and PhD from Cambridge University in England.