Afghanistan: will Moscow and Beijing benefit?

Now that the Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan, the balance of power in Central Asia has shifted. Commentators focus on China and Russia, which, aside from Pakistan, are the only countries keeping their embassies open in Kabul. But how much responsibility Moscow and Beijing are really assuming, and what advantages this will bring them is debatable.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Beijing and Moscow rubbing their hands

China and Russia will negotiate lucrative deals with the Taliban, La Stampa predicts:

“The ambitious gas pipeline projects and Afghan rare earths - on which the United States has not earned a cent - could end up being 'Made in China'. The Taliban are proposing to Xi that they will stop all support for the protests of the Uighur Muslims in exchange for investment. Putin will send weapons and advisers and demand access to the bases the Red Army left defeated in 1989.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Who the true losers are

The West has less to fear from the rise of the Taliban than the larger states surrounding Afghanistan, writes The Daily Telegraph:

“China and Russia both face irredentist Islamic movements on their soil - unlike the US - and ultimately have more to fear from the Jihadi destabilisation of Central Asia. Iran is at daggers drawn with the Taliban over the persecution of the Hazara Shia, already being murdered again according to Amnesty International. Is a Taliban victory really in the interest of any of the surrounding powers?”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

It won't be that bad

For Neatkarīgā the fears of a drastic change in the regional power structure are exaggerated:

“Concerns that radical Islamic ideologies could be exported from Afghanistan, endangering security and stability in Central Asia, have been somewhat allayed. This is because the Taliban are showing a willingness to make pragmatic decisions regarding their Central Asian neighbours, as well as relations with Russia and China. For the time being the Taliban have enough work to do with reshaping Afghan society according to their religious principles. So it is not possible to make concrete predictions about their long-term regional policy right now.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

US should remain in Afghanistan

Dnevnik recalls another withdrawal of US troops:

“After the high-profile US withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011, Obama had to send troops back two and a half years later to oppose the Islamic State. The context in Afghanistan is different, of course, but at least as long as this threat exists, US military and intelligence services will remain stationed there. The threat posed by a new more radical terrorist group that, unlike the Taliban, has global ambitions is real. That is why the US cannot end its presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Recognising the Taliban will bring stability

The international community will come to terms with the Taliban leaders very soon, the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah predicts:

“Most probably, China and Russia will recognize the Taliban rule soon, and together with Iran and Pakistan, they will take responsibility in providing for the political stability and economic well-being of Afghanistan. ... It should not be forgotten that a power vacuum is not preferred in Afghanistan. Therefore, many global and regional countries will prefer to contribute to political stability in the country in order to mitigate any negative consequences of the crisis. For instance, European countries, which do not want a new wave of Afghan refugees coming to Europe, may recognize the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. ”

Zeit Online (DE) /

No power without the burden of responsibility

The defeat of the US in Afghanistan will only bring China, Russia and Iran brief satisfaction, says Zeit Online columnist Matthias Naß:

“Up to now, China has been able to be economically active in Afghanistan without bearing political responsibility for the country. That will change now. ... When the government in Beijing announces reconstruction aid for Afghanistan and wants to integrate the country more strongly into its Silk Road project, it is aware of the danger of this undertaking. ... [Moscow and Tehran are also on their guard. They're glad to see the US fail but they fear the resulting power vacuum. ... The West's opponents are only cautiously triumphant. America's defeat places responsibility and a burden on them that they did not want and that could weigh them down too.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The Chinese Century is not a done thing yet

In a commentary piece in La Repubblica, historian Timothy Garton Ash wonders just how strong China will become:

“'America is back,' said President Joe Biden earlier this year, and the entire democratic world breathed a sigh of relief. But as we watch the debacle of the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan – Kabul as Saigon 2 – a ghostly voice whispers to us: what if America is not back? ... What happens then? The Chinese century? China almost certainly becomes a dominant power in Asia, but not the predominant one. Japan, India and Australia, not to mention a United States still present in the Indo-Pacific, will all work to avoid that. ... In China itself, the contradictions will, sooner or later, deliver its own internal crisis.”

The Times (GB) /

US will rediscover its leadership role

The US should not be written off as the most important global player, The Times believes:

“The world needs more American leadership and more globalisation, not less. Climate change cannot be solved in one country; it manifestly requires a planet-wide response. In like fashion, the pandemic makes a case for more internationalism. ... There is more energy left in America than currently seems the case and, besides, the US is psychologically ill-equipped to settle for second-best. Someday it will rediscover this, just as someday the world may discover American absence is more expensive than its presence.”

Portal Plus (SI) /

Pakistan has never hidden its sympathies

In a commentary for Portal Plus ex-diplomat Božo Cerar ponders what the new balance of power in Kabul means for Pakistan:

“After the withdrawal of the US, the influence of Pakistan, Iran and China will certainly increase. The resulting vacuum will be filled by someone. Pakistan has long awaited the US's departure and has never made a secret of its sympathy and support for the Taliban. ... The worsening situation in Afghanistan also means more refugees in Pakistan. The complete return of the Taliban to Kabul's government buildings could encourage extremists in Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons, to take power in Islamabad.”

NV (UA) /

Taliban remain a local movement

Commenting in NV, Igor Semivolos, Director of the Ukrainian office of the Middle East Studies Association, says that the Taliban do not pose a great danger to the international community:

“As far as the impact of the Taliban's conquest of Afghanistan on the region is concerned, it is important to understand that the Taliban are not an extraterritorial Islamist movement. They are not al-Qaeda, nor are they IS, who see themselves as a kind of Islamic international movement that wants to establish Sharia law around the world and declare a caliphate in the Middle East. ... The Taliban are a local Afghan movement. Yes, they are inspired by Islamist ideas and still live in the Middle Ages, but this movement is local.”