Ancient Persia was a heavily trafficked corridor on the Silk Road, the transcontinental trade route between China and the West that flourished centuries ago. But in Washington’s imagining of a 21st century version of the Silk Road, Iran seems set to be bypassed.
The New Silk Road strategy is a key aspect of the United States' plan to promote stability in Central Asia following the departure of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The hope is that boosting trade among Afghanistan and its neighbors will build prosperity and promote peace. The American strategy focuses on bolstering north-south trade – linking India and Pakistan via Afghanistan to the formerly Soviet republics of Central Asia. “We are focused on South and Central Asia because those are the immediate neighbors of Afghanistan and therefore that's where the greatest effort lies for improving trade and other linkages,” said Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, speaking November 14 in Washington, DC, at a conference organized by the Jamestown Foundation.
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.