Afghanistan and the great powers

  1. Europe. A new wave of refugees from Afghanistan could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is common in Europe to hear that Turkey uses refugees as blackmail. Obviously that is not the view in Ankara: refugees crossing from Turkey to Europe are not Turks, so why should Turkey be held responsible for hosting them? A wave of refugees from Afghanistan traveling from Quetta to the Aegean would not be as easy to accommodate by Turkey as the 2015 wave resulting from the Syrian civil war.

  2. United States. The withdrawal is an unmitigated failure. I hear sometimes that America’s goal in Afghanistan was unrealisable. There is a problem with this thesis: I have no idea what the goal was and neither does anyone in Washington. When you occupy a country for twenty years without knowing what you are doing there, it is perhaps unsurprising that the story does not end well. The United States has just sent a chilling message to its allies worldwide: if domestic considerations so dictate, they may be abandoned to their luck in the blink of an eye. More important in my opinion: Washington has shown over the past two decades that it is no longer able to create political order outside America’s borders and the reason is it has no understanding of political realities and no capacity to articulate foreign policy goals within those realities.

  3. China. There will be an opportunity for China, which is starting to build a new regional order encompassing Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. China is not interested in changing Afghanistan, but it is very much interested in the country’s mineral deposits, many of them of great importance for the ongoing climate transition. Beijing can easily work with Pakistan to extend its influence over the Taliban. Chinese economic interests in Afghanistan will be carved out from the rest of the country and heavily secured, a process I have witnessed in many other countries and regions.