29 September 2021. MK.RU
Written by Andrey Yashlavsky
Translated by Elizaveta Ovchinnikova
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan immediately triggered a struggle between neighbouring powers for the spheres of influence redistribution both in this destroyed by years of war country and throughout the region. The outcome of this struggle is very unclear. President of the International Police Association Russian Section, Lieutenant General, Doctor of Law, Professor, Honored Lawyer of Russia Yury Zhdanov told who received the greatest benefit from the seizure of Afghanistan by the *Taliban (a terrorist organisation banned in the Russian Federation).
– The Americans’ withdrawal from Afghanistan is similar to their flight from Vietnam in 1975. Both then and now, we can talk about the loss, at least temporarily, in regards of US influence in the abandoned region. But, as you know, nature abhors a vacuum. Who will be the major player here?
– If we compare the Americans’ withdrawal from Vietnam and from Afghanistan, we realise that these are two different scenarios.
In 1975, with the withdrawal of the United States from Vietnam, the conflict was de facto terminated, since the war was only on the Vietnamese territory. But now, when the Americans left Afghanistan, it turned out that Afghanistan did not leave the United States at all. If the Vietnamese were ‘just’ defending their homeland, the *Taliban and *al-Qaeda (terrorist organisations banned in the Russian Federation) are striving for the world domination of Islamism. And they see the United States as the main obstacle on the way to achieving this goal. They do not care on whose territory to fight, whose houses will burn and whose children will starve and die – whether in Afghanistan, Europe or the United States. And this is scary.
– So the fight against the United States and Islamist terrorism may be transferred to the American continent?
– It moved there a long time ago – let’s recall the 11 September 2001 events. Now, however, it will become much more intense. US politicians transparently remind us that the *Taliban and others, as they believe, ‘rogue regimes’ categorically do not want to accept Western values of human rights, democracy, international law and peaceful coexistence. Moreover, everyone sees double standards in the Americans’ own understanding of all these values. These double standards are the Islamists’ weighty argument, while the reality does not allow us to unequivocally prove the Americans’ rightness.
Moreover, Islamist terrorists defiantly do not seek popularity in the international community. On the contrary, they seek to intimidate its representatives to the point of submission by peaceful or military means. If they need international recognition, it is only for tactical purposes, for example, to unblock accounts under sanctions or receive financial aid.
– Could it turn out that leaving Afghanistan will cost America much more than choosing an opposite scenario?
– It is already appears to be so. And it is not just about the projected increase in the number of terrorist attacks. American analysts believe that the retreat before Islamic terrorism has gravely undermined the US position as a deterrent, fueling the volcanic Arab tsunami, mistakenly called the ‘Arab Spring.’
If previously, according to experts, the policy of containment really restrained the ‘rogue regimes,’ now the US flight from Afghanistan has increased the threat of existence for all pro-American Arab regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco.
These states, as Americans fear, may now get closer to China and Russia.
– It turns out that Russia benefits from the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, doesn’t it? How did the USSR once benefit from the end of the Vietnam War?
– For Russia, the Taliban’s rapid rise to power creates more problems from counter-terrorist and counter-drug security points of view than positive solutions.
– And who have really got preferences from the *Taliban victory?
– American analysts say that China and Pakistan have become the main beneficiaries. The Americans have made a truly royal gift to these countries. Of course, this gift is forced, they did not plan it, it just happened this way. Lucky. Beijing and Islamabad suddenly have a friendly partner – Afghanistan, which can create difficulties for India – their common enemy.
Let me remind you that since last summer, China and India have had a military confrontation over the disputed border in the Himalayas. And there has always been a conflict between Pakistan and India. Since the creation of these states, such a ‘landmine’ was left by the British when their empire was collapsing. The British also left the region, as did the Americans. They have deliberately drawn borders that are obviously unacceptable for the peoples living here: let them fight forever!
The US-backed former Afghan government was India’s good friend. At the same time, the Pakistan-backed Taliban, especially if it also focuses on China, may become India’s opponent.
– But aren’t all these countries members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)? Isn’t the SCO a platform for settling differences?
– Works both ways. Beijing is increasingly strengthening its security ties with Central Asian countries to detriment of New Delhi.
At the SCO summit held on 16-17 September in Dushanbe, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on other members to facilitate a smooth political transition in Afghanistan, an Observer at the SCO.
Another SCO member, Pakistan, argued that Afghanistan could not be ‘controlled from the outside.’ This is a clear attack not only against the United States but also against India, which, according to Islamabad, was too close to the former Afghan government. By the way, the other day, the Prime Minister of Pakistan actually called on the world community to recognise the Afghan new government.
It is interesting to see whether Beijing will eventually achieve that Afghanistan, ruled by the *Taliban, will become a full SCO member.
For Pakistan, the return of the *Taliban to leadership in Afghanistan also creates a strategic depth in confrontation with India. The *Taliban members have already expressed their intention to support Muslims in the Indian region of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of which are claimed by Pakistan.
At the same time, we should remember that the terrorists from the Pakistan-based group *‘Lashkar-e-Taiba’ (a terrorist group banned in the Russian Federation) committed brutal terrorist attacks in India. Including a coordinated attack and bombings in Mumbai in 2008 and an attack on the Indian military in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir in 2019. There is information that after the fall of Kabul in August, representatives of one of the Islamist groups, which is also controlled by Pakistan, met with the *Taliban to ask for their aid in conducting operations in Jammu and Kashmir. Even if the terrorist forces do not unite against India in Afghanistan, New Delhi will still at least face a less cooperative new *Taliban government, which is united and supported by Pakistan.
– Could it be that the interest of China and Pakistan in Afghanistan is not only military and political but also economic?
– It could, and quite a considerable one. Beijing’s massive Belt One Road infrastructure and investment initiative includes the China-Pakistan economic corridor as a flagship project. It will also run through Afghanistan. This is a combination of road, railway and energy projects. Of course, Beijing’s plans for Afghanistan are much broader than just expanding its logistics capabilities. China would like to exploit natural resources in Afghanistan. In particular, rare earths and other minerals located in the mountains, which, according to experts, may cost almost $ 1 trillion. At least.
– However, as far as we know, the relations between China and Pakistan are not cloudless either?
– It is true. And the cause for dissent lies in the attitude towards terrorists. *Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (a terrorist organisation banned in the Russian Federation), a ‘relative’ of the Afghan *Taliban, operates on the territory of Pakistan. *TTP terrorists attack Chinese facilities in Pakistan. But the authorities do not seek to fight them. So, in July of this year, Islamabad initially did not want to blame the Pakistani *Taliban for the suicide attack on buses carrying Chinese workers to the Belt One Road projects.
In addition, Beijing is particularly concerned that the *‘East Turkestan Islamic Movement’ (a terrorist organisation banned in the Russian Federation) in Xinjiang may receive approval and support from the *Taliban and other Islamist extremist groups.
– It is still strange that China, which has a powerful law enforcement system and counter-drug legislation, is willing to cooperate with the *Taliban, while a considerable part of its income consists of money received from drug trafficking. Does it bother the Chinese?
– It is embarrassing for them. Beijing wants to unilaterally make the drug trade less relevant to the *Taliban adherents by financing them. Beijing’s recent $ 31 million economic aid to Afghanistan is probably partly aimed at achieving this goal. But this is a ridiculous amount compared to the billions that the *Taliban receives from the drug trade. So, the other day, on 20 September, the counter-smuggling agency employees in India seized almost three tons of heroin worth about $ 2.7 billion in the port of Gujarat. The illegal goods disguised as semi-processed talc stones were delivered from Afghanistan through the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
And Pakistan’s decision not to support China’s counter-drug efforts at all could bring tensions in their bilateral relations.
– For what extent could they be strained?
– Of course, we are not talking about a really serious conflict. Beijing and Islamabad have a long history of cooperation. They also have a lot in common on the Afghan issue. Both countries intend to strategically benefit from the*Taliban's success. Any emerging tensions related to the fight against terrorism and drugs will surely be resolved, as China and Pakistan prioritise their relations. They have a very serious common opponent – India. Although, of course, the *Taliban ‘revival’ may be a fly in the ointment to a positive and productive bilateral partnership.