عنوان مقاله [English]
During his tenure, the Afghan President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, followed a different foreign policy path than his predecessor. The shift from neutrality, as the traditional way of conducting foreign affairs in Afghanistan, to a non-neutral path characterized the foreign policy of Afghanistan during his term of office. This can be seen as a major shift that may be addressed from various points of view. This article shows how President Ghani’s perception of reality and his beliefs about an ideal foreign policy for Afghanistan led to this foreign policy shift. Cognitive mapping as a theoretical approach has been used to show how his perceptions and beliefs are related to each other to form policies. Qualitative content analysis has been used to represent his cognition. The main finding of the article is that Ghani’s pragmatic economically-driven attitude besides his understanding of peace and security for Afghanistan as a major goal being achievable through economic growth, foreign direct investments, and interdependence at regional and extra-regional levels led to his diversion from neutrality.
During his tenure, the former Afghan President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, followed a different foreign policy path than his predecessors. Traditionally, neutrality has been the main orientation in Afghanistan’s foreign policy. Since its independence in 1919 (except for a few years after its occupation by the Soviet forces in 1979), Afghan leaders have, more or less, almost always followed the same path. This has been true even in the post-Taleban era. Ex-President Hamed Karzai, for example, despite all external pressures, continued the same foreign policy orientation through a balanced policy towards great powers and regional powers.
However, the shift from neutrality to a non-neutral path characterized the foreign policy of Afghanistan during Ghani’s presidency. Instances of President Ghani’s new orientation can be seen in deepening and expanding relations with western powers, weakening relations with Iran and India, expanding relations with China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and even supporting the Saudi-led alliance in Yemen. These changes can be regarded as unexpected foreign policy decisions as they reflect a violation of neutrality and a balance-based foreign policy dominant for decades. They can even be considered unrealistic when regional conditions are taken into account. Furthermore, they can be regarded as violating Ghani’s economic preferences as they deprived Afghanistan of some primary economic advantages.
Research Question: The question that can be raised is about the cause of such a shift. In other words: why did Afghanistan change its traditional foreign policy orientation in the form of neutrality towards a non-neutral path during Ghani’s presidency?
Research Hypothesis: The question above may be addressed from various points of view and lead to different answers. One may refer to, for example, the significance of foreign pressures, Ghani’s sense of gratitude towards his supporters during the presidential campaign, or the requirements of development. These, however, prove to be inconsistent as some aspects of the shift might be seen as contradictory.
In this paper, the significance of President Ghani’s perceptions in this regard is underlined. The hypothesis is: President Ghani’s perceptions of reality and his beliefs about an ideal foreign policy for Afghanistan led to this foreign policy shift from neutrality to non-neutrality.
Theoretical Framework and Research Method: In a country such as Afghanistan, even if structural forces impose limits on foreign policy choices, the special position of the leaders gives them important leverages. It is the president who can determine the foreign policy of the country. What leads him to his decision is his definition of the situation which is rooted in his understanding of the situation. This article aims to show how cognitive mapping as a theoretical approach can be used to explain how Ghani’s perceptions and beliefs are related to each other and how they have led to his policy choices. According to this theory, everyone has a causal explanation for every situation. In other words, decision-makers have causal claims about the reality in their minds and cognitive mapping seeks to represent the structure of their causal claims. “Cognitive mapping” reflects the arguments of the decision-maker in a graph. Although the approach is usually used to show how the decision-maker sees the relationships in what has happened in the past, we have used it to show how some causal claims have been made and act as presuppositions for reaching a policy option.
In the cognitive approach in general and in cognitive mapping theory in particular, it is believed that one’s thoughts and perceptions are reflected in one’s statements. Thus, if we gather the relevant statements and analyze them, we may get to one’s perceptions in the form of a directed graph that shows the network of concepts in their causal relationships. Content analysis, both quantitative and qualitative, is taken to be the appropriate method for cognitive approaches.
As for the research method, we have employed qualitative content analysis in order to represent President Ghani’s cognition. Accordingly, the speeches and texts produced by Ghani in various contexts are analyzed to find his way of reasoning and arguments. The result is a graph in which causal relations between concepts are demonstrated.
Findings: Ghani believes that an active foreign policy leads to Afghanistan’s interest and security and that is why we can see a proactive foreign policy in this era. To him, a developmentalist approach to foreign policy, i.e, giving priority to economic needs but also leads to security. Western powers are seen as the best partners’ security terms and hence cooperation with the members of NATO plays a vital role in providing stability and security which are seen as a precondition for attracting foreign investment. Ghani argues that an active developmentalist foreign policy leads to more opportunities in international and regional processes that are regarded to be beneficial to Afghanistan. Although western powers are given a special place in providing security, it is believed that expanding relations with China (compared to India) leads to more economic gains and security. Furthermore, he perceives that expanding relations with Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf Arab states leads to more security as well as more financial aid.
Conclusion: Thus, the main finding of the article is that Ghani’s pragmatic economically-driven attitude besides his understanding of peace and security for Afghanistan as a major goal being achievable through economic growth, foreign direct investments, and interdependence at regional and extra-regional levels led to his diversion from the traditional orientation of neutrality.