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What Starts In Afghanistan Does Not Stay In Afghanistan: China, India, And Iran Grapple With The Fallout

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What Starts In Afghanistan Does Not Stay In Afghanistan: China, India, And Iran Grapple With The Fallout

Taliban fighters in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, in June. IMAGE: Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters

Written by Dr. James M. Dorsey.

Taliban advances in Afghanistan shift the Central Asian playing field on which China, India and the United States compete with rival infrastructure-driven approaches. At first glance, a Taliban takeover of Kabul would give China a 2:0 advantage against the US and India, but that could prove to be a shaky head start.

The potential fall of the US-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani will shelve if not kill Indian support for the Iranian port of Chabahar that was intended to facilitate Indian trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Chabahar was also viewed by India as a counterweight to the Chinese-supported Pakistani port of Gwadar, a crown jewel of the People’s Republic’s transportation, telecommunications and energy-driven Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The United States facilitated Indian investment in Chabahar by exempting the port from harsh US sanctions against Iran. The exemption was intended to “support the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.”

However, with negotiations with Iran about a revival of the 2015 international nuclear agreement stalled, the United States announced in July together with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan plans to create a platform that would foster regional trade, business ties and connectivity.

The connectivity end of the plan resembled an effort to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face. It would have circumvented Iran and weakened Chabahar but potentially strengthened China’s Gwadar alongside the port of Karachi.

That has become a moot point with the plans certain to be shelved as the Taliban move to take over Kabul and form a government that would be denied recognition by at least the democratic parts of the international community.

Like other Afghan neighbors, neither Pakistan nor Uzbekistan or for that matter China are likely to join a boycott of the Taliban. On the contrary, China last month made a point of giving a visiting Taliban delegation a warm welcome.

Recognition by Iran, Central Asian states and China of a Taliban government is however unlikely to be enough to salvage the Chabahar project. “Changed circumstances and alternative connectivity routes are being conjured up by other countries to make Chabahar irrelevant,” an Iranian source told Hard News and The Wire.

The Taliban have sought to reassure China, Iran, Uzbekistan and other Afghan neighbors that they will not allow Afghanistan to become an operational base for jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Uighur militants of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP).

The Taliban have positioned themselves as solely concerned with creating an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan and having no inclination to operate beyond the borders of the Central Asian state, but have been consistent in their refusal to expel Al Qaeda, even if the group is a shadow of what it was when it launched the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington 20 years ago.

The TIP has occasionally issued videos documenting its presence in Afghanistan but has, by and large, kept a low profile in the country and refrained from attacking Chinese targets in Afghanistan or across the border in Xinjiang, the north-western Chinese province in which authorities have brutally cracked down on ethnic Turkic Uighurs.

As a result, the Taliban reassurance was insufficient to stop China from repeatedly advising its citizens to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.

“Currently, the security situation in Afghanistan has further deteriorated … If Chinese citizens insist on staying in Afghanistan, they will face extremely high-security risks, and all the consequences will be borne by themselves,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

The fallout of the Taliban’s sweep across Afghanistan, despite the group’s assurances, is likely to affect China beyond Afghan borders, perhaps no more so than in Pakistan, a major focus of the People’s Republic’s single largest Belt-and Road-related investment.

The investment has made China a target for attacks by militants primarily Baloch nationalists. However, the killing in July of nine Chinese nationals in an explosion on a bus transporting Chinese workers to the construction site of a dam in the northern mountains of Pakistan, a region more prone to attacks by religious militants, raises the specter of jihadists also targeting China. It was the highest loss of life of Chinese citizens in recent years in Pakistan.

The attack occurred amid fears that the Taliban will bolster ultra-conservative religious sentiment in Pakistan that celebrates the group as heroes whose success enhances the chances for austere religious rule in the world’s second-most populous Muslim-majority state.

“Our jihadis will be emboldened. They will say that ‘if America can be beaten, what is the Pakistan army to stand in our way?’” said a senior Pakistani official.

Indicating Chinese concern, China has delayed the signing of a framework agreement on industrial cooperation that would have accelerated the implementation of projects that are part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Said scholar Kamran Bokhari: “Regime change is a terribly messy process. Weak regimes can be toppled; replacing them is the hard part. It is only a matter of time before the Afghan state collapses, unleashing chaos that will spill beyond its borders. All of Afghanistan’s neighbors will be affected to varying degrees, but Pakistan and China have the most to lose.”

The demise of Chabahar and/or the targeting by the Taliban of Hazara Shiites in Afghanistan could potentially turn Iran into a significant loser too.

A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud,Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, Podbean,Audecibel, Patreon and Castbox.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and scholar and a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute

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G2 Man

Chinese and Persians are old hands and very smart, the Indians have already lost the most and their attempts to put pressure on their arch enemy Pakistan via a presence in Afghanistan. There is 100% certainty that the some Afghan Jihadis will head to Kashmir as the images of Indian occupation troops killing unarmed Kashmiris and blinding school children with pellet guns with Zionist assistance is causing a lot of anger in the wider Muslim world from Turkey, Iran to Malaysia and Indonesia. The conservative Taliban have a very pan Islamic outlook. It was the Afghan lashkars (military gangs) that assisted the new born Pakistan army to wrestle Azad (free) Kashmir from India in 1948. I expect an intensified asymmetrical war in Kashmir.

Last edited 1 month ago by G2 Man
Superpower china

Dw we know how to handle your 50c wannabe mu$lin rapist army.Meanwhile taliban will come knocking on your door in Tehran and oust all you Shia occupiers

Arch Bungle

First figure out how to spell properly before talking complete garbage on the internet.

Ahson

He ain’t Iranian……He’s from Pakestan.

Chess Master

Losing Kashmir to Pakistan and China could be a wake up for India and Russia. After China finishes with the USA and EU markets, India and Russia are next.

Peppe il Sicario

The Taliban are more than welcome in Europe if they want to get maximum revenge and see the likes of Macron, Merkel, Johnson. Rutte, Draghi etc. violently removed from office and paraded around city streets naked tarred and feathered a top a donkey. Oh what a site it would be!!!

Chess Master

As an european I totally support that. Macron, Merkel, Mogerini are the terrorists. If Islamists are here to deal with our cancer, they are totally welcome.

Ahson

Nothing will happen. Afghanistan is bankrupt and is not fit to be given loans, because they can’t be paid back. It will regress into a totally failed state. China wouldn’t touch it. It’s already sorry about CPEC being a failure. Iran wouldn’t touch Afghanistan with a 10′ pole.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ahson
S Balu

Ahson
Just like you are bankrupt and you had to wear a dhoti and pay Taliban Checkpoints tax
Ie your dhoti opens from the back and Taliban wear pajamas which open from front
Plus where did get Vaseline from or you paid and enjoyed without Vaseline

Ahson

yous goin lose no matter what…….If nobody wants to do business with you? who the fuck would do business with the talibunnies? Get real man……

ossie

One has to love such platitudes like “democratic parts of the international community”.
Nobody will give a rat’s ass for those soon to be irrelevant pindocunt vassals, especially the Taliban.
Or the regurgitating of the tales of alCIAda’s 9/11 “attacks”, and chinese made Uighur’s “holocaust”…

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