The path of a new confrontation with the Taliban is an extremely ineffective exercise for any foreign policy forces. Based on the above, today the main global and regional players in the geopolitical space of our region have opted for a bad peace with the Taliban rather than a good war with them, Rustam Khaydarov writes.
The rise to power of the Taliban* in Afghanistan marked the end of many years of war. Today, peace has virtually returned to Afghanistan. The Taliban are consolidating their power and preparing for long-term rule there. Central Asia is in search of an acceptable model of interaction with the new government of Afghanistan. Today, de facto, there is not a single foreign or domestic political force that could interfere with the rule of the Taliban. The world community, tired of the Afghan problem, is choosing a bad peace over a good war with the Taliban.
Today, the Eurasian geopolitical landscape is experiencing strong tectonic shifts. Some conflicts give way to others and keep the whole world in suspense. Probably, with the demise of the unipolar world, the destruction of the outdated geopolitical structure is inevitable. At the same time, the modern world system of international relations will undergo optimisation. In this context, new hotbeds of conflict may arise, or frozen conflicts may be unfrozen. The Afghan conflict, in its active phase, continued until the withdrawal of occupying US forces from Afghanistan in August 2021. This development almost coincided with the beginning of the destruction of the unipolar world and Russia’s subsequent special military operation in Eastern Europe.
Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban didn’t grab global headlines for long. The conflict in Eastern Europe has overshadowed the processes in the pro-Taliban Afghan society, which is now adapting to the austere rule of religious radicals in accordance with the Sharia prescriptions of Islamic law. It is obvious that state building in Afghanistan will now be based on religiocentricity, and at the same time, the logic and strategy for the development of Afghan society will largely depend on the Taliban’s interpretation of religious norms and texts, above all, of the surahs of the Koran. Today, the Taliban’s interpretation of religious injunctions regarding female education and women’s rights is fundamentally different from the interpretations given by theologians in Muslim countries in the Middle East.
Now the Taliban rule confidently in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s second rise to power in Afghanistan differed significantly from their first arrival in 1996. The second time the Taliban began to behave more pragmatically, leaving an open platform for dialogue both with their neighbours and with global and regional powers. The rhetoric also changed, becoming more diplomatic. It is also important to note that by the day the Taliban came to power again in Afghanistan, the military-political field in this country was cleared of those forces that could compete with the Taliban. If during the first Taliban coming to power they were opposed by the Northern Alliance, consisting mainly of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks, then during their second coming to power in Afghanistan, the Taliban did not have strong opponents who could oppose them. In the wake of the Taliban’s current rise to power in Afghanistan, the war in that country has virtually ceased.
Various predictions that the non-Pashtun population of the country would create pockets of resistance and repel religious radicals have not come true. Today, not a single country in the world is ready or has the ability to create anything like the “Northern Alliance,” which was once successfully used and then eliminated by the United States and its allies in the region. Unity and consolidation of forces are not observed even among the current opponents of the Taliban regime.
Most of Afghanistan’s neighbours are also interested in having at least some kind of centralized power in this country, with whom, while maintaining a distance, limited cooperation can be conducted in all areas. At the same time, the Taliban movement, without changing its radical essence and showing rigidity in domestic politics, conducts a dialogue both with its neighbours and with other countries that have an interest in Afghanistan. Moreover, they conduct a dialogue on equal terms, not allowing themselves to be subject to external dictates. Today we can confidently predict that most countries in Eurasia that have contacts with the Taliban regime, in the coming years will institutionalize their relations with the current government in Afghanistan. Almost all countries that are in contact today with the current government of Afghanistan are guided solely by pragmatism. One of the main tasks of Afghanistan’s neighbours and partners today is to prevent a new civil confrontation within Afghan society and provide humanitarian support to the population of this country. In addition, economic and trade ties are developing between Afghanistan and individual Central Asian countries that are interested in promoting their goods, agricultural products and energy resources in the Afghan market. With the complete stabilisation of Afghanistan, it will also be possible to create new Russia – Central Asia – South Asia transport, logistics and trade corridors, with further access to Africa and Latin America.
China is also interested in a stable and peaceful Afghanistan; the transit potential of this country is an extremely important link in the global Chinese Belt and Road initiative. Obviously, both Russia and China have already established limited economic cooperation and are engaged in political dialogue with the current government in the Afghan state.
The power of the Taliban is strengthening every day in Afghanistan, and they are trying to solve the pressing socio-economic problems of Afghan society.
*banned in Russia by court order