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Afghanistan Can Trigger Multidimensional Fallout On South Asian Politics – Analysis

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By Md. Ishtiak Hossain*

Right now international experts are observing Afghanistan with great interest. Experts are assuming that after American troops withdraw, civil war will break out in Afghanistan, following which some neighboring countries will also involve themselves in a proxy war. As a result, there will be political tension in the region surrounding Afghanistan.

Basically, the fight will be between the Taliban and the anti-Taliban groups. But other neighboring countries will also involve themselves by helping these groups with arms, money and support, to serve their own interests. However, at the same time, the nations will also not involve themselves in any direct conflict. The Hazara minorities, Afghan government forces and the IS are notable anti-Taliban players. The principal actors in this proxy war are the US, China, Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan. Political tension between the two South Asian neighbors India and Pakistan may escalate following the proxy war.

Pakistan a principal actor

Pakistan was one of those three countries which recognized the Taliban when it came to power in Afghanistan. But later following the 9/11 attack, when the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom in October, 2001, targeting the Taliban and the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan had to go against the Taliban due to strong pressure from Washington. But at the same time, in the early days of the operation, Pakistani tribal groups on the Pakistan-Afghan border sheltered Taliban fighters when they needed refuge. The Taliban’s survival depended a lot on these Pakistani friends, who seemed to have extended silent support to the hardline Sunni Islamist group.

Things are different this time. There is no US pressure on Pakistan to take a particular position on Afghanistan. Moreover, currently, Pakistan is not also on good terms with Its former ally US. In such a backdrop, Pakistan can profit more by maintaining good relations with the Taliban.  

China, Russia and Iran

Anyway, Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’ China has intensified communication with the Taliban. Afghanistan is very significant for China for Its Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to connect 60 countries of Africa and Europe. Moreover, relations between the Taliban and Russia have also gained ground in recent times. The Taliban will need political and moral support from a regional power like Russia in the coming days.

Another important actor of the proxy war is Iran, whose situation also needs to be analyzed. Hazaras are the main foes of the Taliban. Iran helps the Hazaras by providing them with arms and money for their self-defense as they are both Shias. Because of the conflict with the US on the nuclear crisis, Iran has become more dependent on China and Russia. There will be fresh complications if the Hazaras and the Taliban involve themselves in a civil war. By taking the side of the Hazaras, Iran will basically go against China and Russia on the Afghan issue. 

So a comprehensive study of the pros and cons of the Afghan situation makes it more than likely that Pakistan, China and Russia will support the Taliban. On the other hand, the US, India and Iran will back anti-Taliban groups.

Al Qaeda’s reappearance

But what could be bad news for the US as well as India is the likely re-emergence of the Al Qaeda alongside the Taliban’s return to power. One of the main targets of Al Qaeda is to make India a battleground and then spread the fighting to the Middle East. Besides this, Al Qaeda’s rise would make the Kashmir issue more complicated for India. So India would find it better if anti-Taliban forces hold the reins of power in Afghanistan.

Another significant fallout could be a reappearance of Al Qaeda. Their re-emergence could trigger violence in regions like Kashmir, Xinjiang(Uighur)  and Chechnia.

Besides, the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have also appeared on the scene lately. Al Qaeda will also try to connect Rohingya radicals into its ‘war’ just like Kashmir, Uighur and Chechen rebels.

It needs no rocket science to surmise that the rise of the Taliban, and the way various nations embrace or give cold shoulder to the group, would have much impact on regional politics, which may get more complicated, intense and heated.

*About the author: The writer is a student of Department of International Relations, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh. He can be  contacted at [email protected]

Source: This article was published by South Asia Monitor

South Asia Monitor

To create a more credible and empathetic knowledge bank on the South Asian region, SPS curates the South Asia Monitor (www.southasiamonitor.org), an independent web journal and online resource dealing with strategic, political, security, cultural and economic issues about, pertaining to and of consequence to South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Developed for South Asia watchers across the globe or those looking for in-depth knowledge, reliable resource and documentation on this region, the site features exclusive commentaries, insightful analyses, interviews and reviews contributed by strategic experts, diplomats, journalists, analysts, researchers and students from not only this region but all over the world. It also aggregates news, views commentary content related to the region and the extended neighbourhood.

One thought on “Afghanistan Can Trigger Multidimensional Fallout On South Asian Politics – Analysis

  • May 12, 2021 at 2:06 pm
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    With the failure of the US war-efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and also the diminishing of Washington’s long-standing entente with Pakistan, South and Western Asian geopolitics are now in flux. The continuation of the Afghan civil war is a near certainty. But unlike in the past, the anti-Taliban political forces will not be able to count on support from Russia. This potential fact is indeed a dramatic change from the past. The days of US-Russian cooperation on outcomes in Afghanistan could be over. This does not bode well for not only the women of Afghanistan, but for the county and the region as a whole. And it is the worsening of US-Russia relations over the course of two decades, which could alter the balance in Afghanistan. This deterioration of relations between the White House and the Kremlin in general, and its spillover in Afghanistan in particular, could reverberate from India, to the Gulf Arab states, into the Levant, causing great consternation in Israel and also impact dramatically the democratic forces in opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The fact is that India, Iran and the US hardly make for a the kind of geopolitical partnership necessary to offset China, Russia and Pakistan. Already the Biden administration is under intense scrutiny for its bent toward an Obama-like appeasement of Tehran. But to be on the same team with Iran, in a proxy war in Afghanistan, while at the same time to be lifting sanctions against this anti-American regime — without any major alteration to the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) — is a losing strategy, geographically and politically. For the Biden administration to turn away from Trump’s “America First” unilateralism is one thing; but to enable Tehran is tantamount to electoral suicide. And Iran policy is the one of the few foreign issues which could very easily cause an electoral backlash in the US. And if the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan goes badly for the democratic forces in Kabul, the Biden administration will be placed under great pressure. Already Hillary Clinton has criticized Biden’s decision for a complete pull-out of troops. And Clinton was in the White House (as secretary of state) when the policy of Iran appeasement was formulated. She saw first hand Obama abandoned the democratic forces in Syria to their fate with Hezbollah and Iran. And she also witnessed the Obama-Biden administration tilt toward a “more balanced Middle East” — a euphemism for green-lighting Iranian dominance from Iraq to Lebanon. But Obama remained in Afghanistan, while Biden has decided to pullout. However, if relations with Russia hadn’t so deteriorated because of an ill-conceived Washington policy (by elements of the Obama administration) of a “color revolution”, in the Ukraine of all places, things might have been different. After all, Mrs. Clinton wanted to “reset relations” with Moscow. But instead of a reset, members of the Obama administration were talking NATO expansion into the Ukraine. If ever there was a redline for Moscow, this was it. Can you imagen the reaction of Russian troops and missiles in Cuba? OOPS!! Been there, done that, almost destroyed the world! Now, the area of South Asia has become not only a nuclear powder-keg, but also a region without a conventional balance. The Russia-India relationship of old has eroded, as Washington has driven Moscow farther into the embrace of Beijing. Afghanistan was always Pakistan’s backdoor, but very likely, no more. India is now being squeezed by a strong China-Pakistan alliance, and the end of its partnership with Moscow. And as the second global cold war begins to boil, a proxy war in Afghanistan could become the vortex for not only a regional showdown, but also, fears of a kind of summer 1914 scenario are a possibility. Meanwhile, Iran most likely will play the Biden administration for all it can get, all the while using the financial proceeds to buy advanced weaponry from China. And by the end of this decade, it is a certainty that the Islamic Republic will become a nuclear threshold state — JCPOA or no JCPA. So what will be the end-game for all this instability? More and more turmoil on a planet desperate for peace and ecological healing. And once again, the expansion of NATO has demonstrated that without an answer to the division of Europe; the Middle East, South Asia and perhaps the entire world could be very negatively affected.

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