By presenting the 4 part plan about Afghanistan, China is considered the most determined foreign player, trying to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan with the help of Tajikistan and Pakistan, while the reactions of the other players, especially the US, have been hesitant and contradictory. However, Pakistan and China’s plans in their relations with the Taliban, too, are faced with big challenges and the Iranian authorities’ remarks should be made cautiously.
China’s 4 part plan presented to the G-20 Summit was in contradiction to the decisions and actions of the US and big European countries for keeping pressure on the Taliban, not recognizing its government and blocking Afghanistan’s assets, and Pakistan which was considered a US ally in Afghanistan is advancing its policies in Afghanistan in coordination with China. China’s interests in Afghanistan are, at first, economic and geopolitical, and second, security, and it is assumed that a powerful government in Kabul, that is the expansion and consolidation of the Taliban power in Afghanistan, will serve both goals. For this reason, it can be said that despite the Americans, the Chinese quickly came up with a conclusion of their policy in Afghanistan. Here, China’s reliance is on the relations between Pakistan and the Taliban and Pakistan’s dominance over the Taliban and efforts to establish positive ties with the Taliban government to implement economic projects, and the One Belt, One Road Project and at the same time to control extremist groups stationed in Afghanistan. China is trying, in parallel and in coordination with Tajikistan, to prevent the transfer of extremist fighters to Central Asia and from there to China and its $8.5 million aid for establishing two military bases on the borders of Tajikistan and Afghanistan is to this end. Although China shares a 46 mile border with Afghanistan, the impenetrability of this border has left China feeling no immediate security threat and China’s main concerns are now about Central Asia’s borders.
On the other side, the Americans have made numerous miscalculations and so far their policies have been indefinite and reactive. After the US withdrawal debacle and Taliban’s quick takeover of Kabul, some experts believed that the retreat was intentional to create severe security problems for Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Iran; however, by examining the more official and serious statements and texts of the US think tanks it can be concluded that although the Americans predicted a Taliban rise to power, but they had in mind a 6 month or one year process for conquering Kabul after their pullout from Afghanistan and they thought they would be able to negotiate with Taliban and preserve some of their leverages to cushion the consequences of the pullout. For example, negotiations with Turkey for taking over control of the Kabul airport have been made within such a framework of assessments. However, the Afghan army’s quick collapse and Taliban takeover of Kabul had not been predicted in the Americans’ assessments and for this there is still much doubt about the US’s final policy in Afghanistan in internal circles and US think tanks and numerous prescriptions have been offered.
One of these prescriptions is continuation of pressure , mostly economic, on the Taliban and prevention from stabilization of the situation by freezing its money , continuing the sanctions, and not recognizing Taliban to make Afghanistan ,now that it has totally gone out of the US hands, a permanent area of crisis and instability for the anti-American bloc that is perceived by the Americans to have been formed in the region by countries like China, Russia, Iran, Tajikistan, Pakistan and the Taliban1. In doing so, there is still a strong tendency in the US, especially among the republican hawks of the Congress, to make the US refrain from any interaction, cooperation or recognition of the Taliban government.
On the other side, some new developments have made the US government review this scenario or strategy and there can be seen signs of interest in interacting with the Taliban and reserving the minimum US influence in the country. China’s rush to address the Taliban’s needs, including the four part plan to offer immediate humanitarian aid to the Afghanistan under Taliban ( which to the Americans means supporting this group and helping preserve and strengthen Taliban’s power) together with news about the Taliban factions’ internal rivalry, especially between Abdul Ghani Baradar and Sirajuddin Haqqani2, and a probable collapse of Pakistan’s ISI’s control3 over this group has led the US to put revision of this startegy on the agenda. Although it does not seem this policy review4 to have been finalized, some changes, such as opting Qatar to maintain the US interests in Afghanistan and some news of the renewed US movements to interact with the Taliban through Turkey and Qatar can be considered signs of the US interest in making some changes in this regard.
What is important for Iran is to closely and constantly watch these fragile and instable developments and refrain from rushing, and pay attention to the deep consequences enforcement of each of these policies of this great power can bring about and adopt the best strategy to maintain the Iranian , Afghan nation and the region’s interests.
By Alireza Miryousefi, Senior Expert of IPIS
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)
3ISI or Inter-Service Intelligence
4 Policy Review