Against the backdrop of a spike of unrest along the border with Afghanistan and in the country itself after the withdrawal of US troops, more and more states in the region are trying to take every opportunity to maintain stability in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. While several regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the USA have to some extent lost influence over the forces, they sponsor in the region, and sometimes even face defections to more extremist groups, more and more other actors are joining the search for an Afghan compromise.
After a series of successes of the Taliban (banned in the Russian Federation) in different provinces, the government troops of Afghanistan have launched a counter-offensive and announced the capture of several provinces, in particular, the Bamyan Province, the Surkhi Parsa district of Parwan Province, and the Malistan district center, Ghazni Province, in Central Afghanistan. At the same time, inter-Afghan negotiations between Kabul and the radical Taliban in Doha continue with varying success, which, according to some observers, are encouraging. However, concrete results are not yet visible. It is believed that the Taliban are “fed up with the war” and are ready to look for compromise in Afghanistan. Younger generations of passionate fighters are emerging, with great enthusiasm, who have not yet lived in unoccupied Afghanistan but believe they are fighting to liberate Afghanistan from foreign troops. This passionate young part of the movement, led by field commanders, is radicalized.
Many experts agree that the Doha negotiation format is clearly no longer up to the task, and so new venues are now emerging for attempts to resolve the Afghan crisis.
Against this backdrop, Moscow is actively involved in the negotiation process, providing its territory to search for peace in that country. A delegation from the Taliban political office recently visited Moscow. On July 22, the second consultation on Afghanistan was held in Moscow. Representatives of the United States, China, Pakistan, the Afghan government, and the radical Islamist Taliban movement were invited.
Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, has joined the “big Afghan game.” In line with its tactic of consolidating its position in other countries, Ankara makes good use of soft power techniques in Afghanistan, restoring mosques and schools in which the Turkish language is taught purposefully, providing active financial assistance to pro-Turkish media, and supporting Turkish business in the country. Because of this and numerous conferences on the Afghan question in Turkey itself, Ankara expects to become a very influential player in the domestic politics of that country. With the US and NATO hastily withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan, Turkey has announced its intention to take over the guarding and control of Kabul airport, clearly seeking to take over the baton from the US in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
At the same time, in Turkey itself, Erdogan’s recent initiatives to increase his influence in the Islamic Republic of Afganistan are perceived critically, above all, because of the fear of inciting the Taliban aggression. The warning about which, in particular, is directly indicated by the statement of Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen published on July 7 to the British BBC, that all foreign military personnel must leave Afghanistan before a fixed date for the withdrawal of troops. Another wave of criticism of Erdogan’s Afghan policy was triggered by the Turkish leader’s recent statement in North Cyprus that his country “can get along better” with the Taliban because Turkey does not contradict his faith in anything. In response, Turkish citizens have lashed out at Erdogan with accusations that the country, under his leadership, is moving away from the concept of a secular state and fundamentalist assumptions are becoming a priority, and that if Turks were not different from the Taliban, they would become “barbarians and savages.”
Turning back to the topic of mediation efforts in resolving the situation in Afghanistan, it is necessary to recall the July 16 decision in Tashkent by representatives of the United States, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to create a new quadrilateral consultation platform. The statement was made in Tashkent as part of the International Conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities.” The four countries agreed that regional connectivity is essential for long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
July 17-19 Islamabad also hosted a conference on the Afghan settlement.
China expresses grave concern about the situation in Islamic Republic of Afganistan because the country borders its northwestern province of Xinjiang. Understandably, stability in the Central Asian region is vital to China. Beijing continues to build the One Belt, One Road project. This was the background for the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Tajikistan, where there has been active fighting on the border in recent weeks. An experienced diplomat, Yue Xiaoyong has been appointed as the Special Envoy for Afghan Affairs to help Afghanistan resolve the situation.
In addition to these actors, Iran is increasingly trying to use local and religious ties to maintain stability in a neighboring Muslim country. According to recent Iranian media reports, the intensification of the Taliban offensive has led to a sharp mobilization of Afghanistan’s Shiites. In particular, after dozens of Afghan provinces surrendered to the “violent mullahs,” a specific Shiite group, “Hashd ash-Shaabi”, has allegedly reared its head in Afghanistan. According to Jomhouri-e Eslami, it is ready to fight back the armed opponents of official Kabul and support the army. It is worth noting that this organization includes a group known as the Fatemiyoun Brigade made up of Afghans, mainly from the Shiite ethnic Hazaras minority, who are believed to have been trained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to fight in Syria. From Tehran’s perspective, the Fatemiyoun division could play a decisive role in neighboring countries’ mutual desire for stability in Afghanistan. Iran’s leadership undoubtedly feels a deep connection to and responsibility for the Afghan Shiites, as they fear a backlash in the form of a new upsurge of unrest on the border and a potential influx of refugees. For Afghanistan’s Shias, this strike may pose an existential threat not only from the Taliban but also from the terrorist group DAESH (banned in the Russian Federation) and other forces. At the same time, Iran clearly has no particular desire to intervene in a way that would provoke the very instability it is so eager to avoid. As for the Fatemiyoun division and the “Shiite front” in Afghanistan in general, it refers to groups of former Hazara field commanders, who, although alone, do not pose a threat to the Taliban. Nevertheless, they are strengthening their positions within the anti-Taliban militia movement, including the Hazara, Tajiks, and Uzbeks. That’s probably not created without the help of Kabul.
At the same time, along with efforts to find a compromise in Afghanistan, the international public has been increasingly accusing Washington of demanding that it is the USA that should ensure a gradual resolution of the situation in Afghanistan. In particular, Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui in Moscow said that Beijing is against the idea of Washington using the withdrawal of its troops to destabilize the region. Hanhui stressed that “as the instigator, American leadership, the United States must rethink the situation in Afghanistan and responsibly ensure that it is gradually resolved. They have no right to shift the burden of responsibility to other countries and walk away without thinking about the consequences.”
Besides, there was an increasing demand for Washington and London to give an official account to the world’s public for their “Afghan campaign” because the basis for the introduction of US and British troops into Afghanistan was the UN Security Council resolution No. 1368, dated September 12, 2001, which imposes on these two countries the personal obligation to provide a full report to the Security Council and the UN General Assembly for their actions in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.