Berlin (dpa) – The commotion in Afghanistan came suddenly, the consequences for the local population are dramatic.
As far as foreign policy is concerned, after today’s frenetic bailouts for many states, the question will arise: what next for this country, in which a militant Islamist group is now deciding the realities of life for millions of people?
Is cooperation possible or will Afghanistan’s isolation be announced in the global power concert? While the US wants to quickly move away from the Hindu Kush, China and Turkey are considering more influence in the region. Meanwhile, the change of power for India could be a serious blow to global influence. An overview of the interests of the most influential powers:
The United States is currently engaged in its evacuation mission and the failure debate. Further plans for the future approach of the new Taliban regime are not yet publicly discussed. The US State Department spokesman said it was in contact with other governments to coordinate how to deal with the evolving situation.
US President Joe Biden has announced that he will continue to campaign “for the fundamental rights of the Afghan people”, notably mentioning the rights of women and girls. He left open what the commitment of the US – which no longer has any influence on the new rulers in Kabul – should look like.
In Russia, the Taliban are banned as a terrorist organization. Nevertheless, there were also official negotiations with representatives of the militant Islamists in Moscow. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there are talks with Taliban political forces, but not terrorists. He left it open whether Russia would recognize the new leadership in Kabul. Russian Ambassador to Kabul, Dmitri Zhirnov, met with Taliban representatives this week and spoke of constructive talks. The embassy continues to operate.
But even looking back on its 20-year war in Afghanistan during the Soviet era, Russia is acting expectantly. Moscow is especially ensuring support for the Central Asian states concerned for their security – especially Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In Tajikistan, Russia took part in maneuvers this summer to fend off a possible Taliban invasion. Russia also wants to prevent the US from setting up military bases in Central Asia. Moscow considers the region to be its sphere of influence even 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
China is looking for stability in Afghanistan and wants to prevent the neighboring country from becoming a breeding ground for terrorism. Otherwise, it fears negative impacts on the neighboring Muslim-populated Xinjiang region of northwestern China or projects of its “New Silk Road” infrastructure initiative in Central Asia or Pakistan. Beijing had come to terms with the Taliban before they took power in Kabul.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave a grand reception to a high-ranking Taliban delegation on July 28 in Tianjin and diplomatically enhanced the warriors of God. China will not interfere in Afghanistan, Wang Yi promised. But the Taliban must “clearly” break with all terrorist groups, including separatists, fighting for the independence of the former East Turkestan in Xinjiang.
Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar called China a “trustworthy friend”. He hoped that China could play an important role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Unlike the US and Russia, China can appear in Afghanistan as a player without a heavy war history. As a financially strong regional power, a permanent veto member in the UN Security Council, a friend of the Russians, and a rival to the US, China could become an important cooperation partner for the Taliban – one that no other political system resembles them.
The ultra-conservative government of President Ebrahim Raisi is still in doubt whether it should be happy with the change of power in the neighboring country or not. While the US nemesis is out of the way for now, the militant Islamist Taliban as successors were also not really wanted. Raisi hopes for a national agreement within the framework of internal negotiations between the Afghan groups to continue cooperation. For observers, more wishful thinking than strategic consideration.
For many in Iran, the Taliban are still Muslim Sunnis, for whom Shia Iran is and remains a religious nemesis. Given the chaotic conditions in Afghanistan, economic cooperation is also unrealistic, at least in the short term. There is concern about a wave of refugees like the one in 1979 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Iran was currently unable to cope with such a situation due to the acute economic crisis and the corona pandemic.
It is currently unclear how the Indian government will stand against a Taliban government in the future. The country has had good relations with Afghanistan to date, and over the past two decades, some $3 billion has been invested in development aid projects. These large investments in the old government are now likely to be in jeopardy. China’s nemesis Pakistan, which also includes the Taliban, is likely to play a stronger role in Afghanistan – which in turn could increase the risk of terrorism in the India-Pakistan border region of Kashmir.
India also has tense relations with its other neighbour, China – and as the People’s Republic is likely to play a greater role in Afghanistan in the future, India’s geopolitical situation in South Asia is now rather dire.
Turkey has not only adopted Taliban-friendly tones since coming to power. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly stated his willingness to host Taliban leaders in Ankara. There is nothing against the faith of the Taliban, Erdogan of the state news agency Anadolu said. Help Afghanistan in good and bad times.
Before the Taliban came to power, there was much debate about the extent to which Turkey could continue to secure the international airport after the end of the NATO mission. Ankara has shown and is ready. Analysts viewed this as an attempt by the largely isolated country in foreign policy terms to improve relations with the US and other countries and expand its influence in the region. How the country could try to realize this interest under the new circumstances is still open. Many refugees from Afghanistan have been coming to Turkey via Iran for years. News from Afghanistan has often provoked anti-refugee rhetoric among the population in recent weeks. The opposition in the country is using the topic to create a vote against Erdogan.