The US withdrawal after 20 years of war in Afghanistan has not only prompted the return to power of the Taliban and the scenes of desperation of people attempting to flee Kabul, ready to die by clinging to planes as they take off.
There was widespread concern among US allies about Washington’s reliability, publicly visible in the West in the form of criticism and in Asia as a burgeoning regional arms race.
More importantly, it shifted a key piece of geopolitical failures not only locally but across the planet, as it involved the central conflict of the 21st century world, Cold War 2.0 between the United States and China.
The polarization between the two countries will tend to be accentuated in Asia, with the displacement of the American military means towards what Barack Obama called the pivot of the Pacific.
This has brought opportunities and problems for Beijing. On the one hand, its support for the Taliban already in the preliminary stages of the reconquest of Afghanistan guarantees the Chinese as guarantor of external power in the country, probably with the growing partnership with Russia.
This is to ensure stability on the western border, permeable to radical infiltration of Islamic movements in its predominantly Muslim region, Xinjiang.
In addition, Afghanistan could see Chinese funds for infrastructure and reconstruction, as Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen asked on Friday (20). In return, access to billions of Afghan rare earth reserves essential to the electronics industry.
But no one should expect Chinese troops to step in if they are wrong, says Meia Nouwens, a Chinese defense policy expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “The Western experience in Afghanistan is a powerful warning.”
For her, there is a more important stake which transcends the moment of humiliation of the USA: “The change of American military focus towards the Indo-Pacific”, moreover already being repeated in the South China Sea and in the United States. the Taiwan Strait.
The Taliban’s victory is a huge defeat for India, which over the years has wooed the pro-American regime in Kabul as a way to repay Pakistan, its existential rival.
Islamabad had encouraged the Taliban in the 1990s precisely to have an additional ally in the region, gaining what is called strategic depth in the event of war.
“Two decades later, the game has turned again, and during the period when Pakistan has allied with China,” said Pakistani political scientist Junayd Mahmud of the “capital of the tribal areas” Peshawar.
In addition to waiting for the degree of governability in Afghanistan, Narendra Modi’s government will now consolidate the alignment it has been trying for years with the United States on behalf of a common enemy, China.
Traditionally seeking neutrality, India has spent years purchasing Soviet / Russian military equipment and having good relations with Washington.
But the “war against terrorism” pushed Pakistan into the Chinese economic and military fold: it is now 25 billion dollars invested by Beijing in the economic corridor with the Indian Ocean passing through its ally.
With this, fearing isolation in Asia, the Indians strengthened their partnership with the Americans, symbolized by their renewed interest in Quad, the group of United States allies in the Indo-Pacific which was reassembled by Donald Trump and has become part of Joe Biden’s strategy.
A clear sign of this was the skirmish between the two nuclear powers in the Himalayas last year. The conflict has ebbed, but now New Delhi’s military strategy is focused on Beijing, seeing its great rival Islamabad as an extension of the adversary.
The Quad is best seen on a map: it unites the United States with Japan, Australia and India, forming a circle around Chinese maritime outlets, the arteries of its economy. Biden barely disguises his intention to keep them under pressure.
For its part, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been more cautious of the Taliban, aware that its main interest, to see the West erode, has been achieved without additional effort.
For the rest, the disengagement of the United States always creates windows: today it is Putin who occupies the role of protector of the Syrian Kurds, by slowing down Turkish advances in the Arab country where he intervened in 2015.
Russia’s central interest is to maintain the stability of its border with Central Asia through the militarization of its main ally, Tajikistan. The tanks and the troops which went to stay two weeks in exercises on Tajik soil have already gained an extended stay of one month, if not perennial.
In this configuration more centered on Afghanistan’s neighbors, the certainty that the United States is not a reliable partner has sparked reactions.
Turkmenistan, which like Uzbekistan is the “o” least aligned with Moscow, has started to renew its military fleet.
Brazil’s Embraer has done well, who has already delivered two A-29 Super Tucano light attack jets and is expected to sell at least four more, in a deal widely reported by Turkmen state media, but which no one speaks officially.
Not just her. Italian Leonardo also supplied at least two M-346FA light jets, an improved version of the Russian model Yak-130 and two C-27J Spartan tactical cargo ships. There are also no details on the values here.
The Uzbeks are also considering similar hardware, if they don’t decide to stay between themselves with the fleet of at least 14 Super Tucano and other planes whose pilots used to flee the Taliban last weekend.
Politically more importantly, distrust of Biden has reached his NATO allies, the alliance that has supported the US adventure in Afghanistan. The President has become a Judas in the British Parliament.
The unilateral decision to leave the Afghans came at a time when Boris Johnson’s government was trying to propagate its “Global Britain” plan.
As the name suggests, it aims to suggest London’s global projection of power with the maiden voyage of its new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and a strike group with Americans and Dutch.
Kabul ended the spectacle, which included a skirmish with the Russians on the Black Sea, with warning shots from Moscow.
Two other important players follow the unfolding confusion. Iran, which was an adversary of the Taliban when the group was overthrown by the United States in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, is now close to fundamentalists.
It’s a Shiite theocracy that talks to Sunni radicals, somewhat unmistakable, but business is business, and both want to see America behind its back.
Here again, the notion of strategic depth appears: it’s good for everyone, even more so for a Tehran which sees the formation of an Arab-Israeli-American coalition in the west.
This is all ironic, given that Tehran’s big rival is Riyadh and Saudi Arabia was one of three countries in the world that recognized and supported the Taliban in its first brutal takeover in 1996.
The stories of militants invading cities with shiny vans donated by the Saudi monarchy are old. So many years later, the kingdom’s interest in supporting the Taliban seems nil, given that it is already facing its own image crisis due to the abuses of its regime.
Turkey, on the other hand, which made several investments in the former Afghan regime, is in what Burcu Ozcelik of the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University (UK) wrote: a risky situation.
“Ankara will try to use its close relations with Pakistan and Qatar [onde a liderança exilada do Talibã se baseia] position yourself as a mediator. But the absence of a clear legal framework makes the prospect dangerous, unless the terms of the diplomatic engagement are clear, “he wrote.
There is also the issue of refugees. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already declared that his country will not be a “repository” for them, and has erected a border wall to the east.
These are just conjectures, as impenetrable as the story that followed George W. Bush’s dispatch of his troops in 2001. After all, as the British and Russians well know, Afghanistan is in the spotlight. height of its nickname “cemeteries of empires”.