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Afghanistan: To be Integrated into China’s “Belt and Road”

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Afghanistan: To be Integrated into China’s “Belt and Road”

A Country Where History Is Marked in Tombstones

By Tom Clifford

Another name has been chiseled on the tombstone in the graveyard of empires.

The United States of America. 2001-2021.

From the swords of Alexander the Great, the British empire, the Russians before and after Lenin, and the US as the newest members of the Great Game, military powers have seen the Afghan sand swallow their ambitions. “Look upon my works ye mighty….’’

Some commentators have said the abandonment of Afghanistan was the worst crisis facing the West since Suez. They are wrong. This is much worse. The canal crisis was about two empires with setting suns, the British and French, not appreciating or admitting their diminishing post-war role before the US stepped in to restore perspective. Afghanistan is about betrayal, defeat, and an increased terror threat. As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it is sobering to remember that the US went into Afghanistan to topple the Taliban in 2001 and thereby reduce the terror threat. It left in 2021 and allowed the Taliban to take over. At the very least, it is difficult to explain.

The West in Asia is discredited. North Korea and China can be expected to take advantage.

It would be remiss of military planners in South Korea and Japan not to formulate a new defense strategy, one more firmly based on their own capabilities, in the light of the flight from Kabul.

America’s defeat by the Taliban will also comfort terror groups.

The Chinese saw it coming. Little commented on in the West, the Chinese hosted the Taliban in Tianjin at the end of July as Western military officials kept on talking about a timescale of months before Kabul was endangered. The Chinese realized in July that the Taliban were going to win within a matter of days or weeks. This is why China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, met Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s political chief, in Tianjin, 100km east of Beijing, at the end of July. Just before this meeting, the Chinese had hosted the US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, also in Tianjin. When they met the Taliban a few days later it was an indicator that they were taking the Taliban seriously. It was also a snub to the US, putting the Taliban envoy on par with Sherman.

Wang, as the occasion demanded, exchanged niceties with the Taliban. Beijing expected it to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”, according to a readout of the meeting from the foreign ministry.

What this really means; China will help the Taliban in aid and investment through the conduit of Pakistan. In return, the Taliban must not interfere in China’s restive region of Xinjiang, where Muslims are in the majority and up to a million are incarcerated by Beijing.

There is money to be made and plenty of deals to be done.

The Belt and Road Initiative, China’s plan, in part, to establish trade routes from the East to Europe that cannot be targeted by US sanctions, needs to get into Afghanistan to better access the Central Asian republics. Beijing is constructing a major road through the narrow Wakhan Corridor—the strip of mountainous territory connecting Xinjiang in China to Afghanistan.

This will provide a key route for its Belt and Road Initiative to Pakistan and Central Asia. These routes are essential for Beijing to pursue its goals of increased trade with the region. Crucially, Afghanistan’s natural resources, especially rare earths, essential for the computer and telecoms industry, can be mined and transported.

Laughable as it sounds now, Kabul had shunned participation in the initiative to avoid getting on the wrong side of Washington.

China’s approach is based both on commerce as well as security. It hopes to rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure indirectly. In terms of Afghanistan, China has been described as Pakistan’s ATM. This approach also gives China hands-off deniability.

Beijing hopes to avoid the harsh lessons of history. Afghanistan is a country where history is marked in tombstones.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. The ‘Great Game’ continues…

    Given previous ‘Post Independence’ conflicts between Pakistan (Now moving into CCP orbit) and India (Long-time ally of Russia and, more-recently the USA), and the stand-off in Kashmir, I doubt that New Delhi is going to be happy with all this, supposedly ‘peaceful’ and trade-focused effort by China. It will (Correctly IMHO) probably see this as yet another attempt by Beijing to hem India in. Burma is currently ‘neutral’ (and fighting it’s own insurrection against islamists on the Bangaladeshii border) but should CCP blandishments be attractive-enough (and these can be made to appear VERY attractive) it might also fall into the clutches of the CCP, effectively encircling India on three sides, with Bangaladesh itself also likely to succumb to Chinese influence.

    On that basis, New Delhi is likely to feel increasingly isolated and it will be interesting to see what eventuates, especially with the now-well-established US ‘weakness’ and Russian disinclination towards supporting the Indian military.

    It’s unlikely that the Western media will pay this much attention, but with CCP intentions still being to access the Indian Ocean by fair means of foul, the arms of the Beijing Octopus are already starting to move southwards.

    Expect some interesting consequences…

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  2. It will be more “belt” than road and it will be the Mujaheddin back to deal their form of justice.
    The Chinese really haven’t got the stomach for Medieval punishment.
    The Russians who have much more stomach for a good fight than the Chinese, lasted a decade and they only lost 15,000.

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    • The British in the Days of Empire learnt their lesson with warlords and the various tribal leaders in India and Africa, that itischeaper and less bloody to pay off key ones to keep the rest in line, backed by the threat of military force to replace the unwilling.
      China are clever enough to throw money rather than direct force at it. My money is on the Chinese.

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  3. Of all ‘recent’ attempts to ‘subdue’ the locals, only the British got anywhere near success in Afghanistan, albeit after loosing heavily in two wars against them, and effectively ‘bought’ peace for the area.

    This was done on the basis that they would pay local Khans (Chiefs) a ‘reasonable’ amount to keep their own people under control , and if they didn’t, there would be military ‘retribution’.

    Anyone who has ever read Kipling’s tales of the Nth West Frontier Province (NWFP) would appreciate the point.

    The Khan’s thought it wonderful and ‘usually’ complied, although ‘stirring’ for the hell of it wasn’t unknown, and, recognising the military prowess of the (Then) British soldier thought it was actually quite sporting of the Brits to provide ‘target practice’ for their own men/ boys. It was, to the Afghanis, a game; to London, not quite so much.

    Pakistan ‘Inherited’ the NWFP and having seen the the ‘Payment’ practice actually working for those close to the Afghani/Pakistan border, continued the practice, largely to the mutual benefit of all concerned, However (and typically) Big Power ‘interference’ in the area (most notably the ‘Soviet Incursion’ ) changed things immensely. The arrival of the US / NATO forces served-only to compound the problem.

    Afghanistan will never change, the inter-tribal warfare will continue, and any ‘Big Power’ foolish-enough to try and subdue / placate the locals will always have it’s nose bloodied. The Chinese, using different, ‘passive’ tactics MIGHT succeed via trade, but the well-known Chinese ‘greed’ may well cause the not-unusual anti-Chinese ‘blow-back’, which we have come to expect throughout the world…

    After the usual usual US-media ‘sensationalist’ stories have run their course, Afghanistan will vanish from the world stage, and the locals will resume their ‘Fussin and a Fightin’ as they have done for centuries, secure in the knowledge (Should they ever think about it) that their ‘Country’ has managed to ‘beat’ three of history’s recent ‘Super Powers’ ; Britain, Soviet Russia and The USA. Not bad for a bunch of semi-literate tribesmen…

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    • I have to agree with you Kea

      Says it here

      ‘At the very least, it is difficult to explain.’
      Das author is clueless.

      The Chinese have been good at dealing with a variety of people and were in Africa 20 years ago ‘running alongside’
      They have engaged with Tonga , middle east, and around the world.
      They have worked alongside or at least given that impression

      It is their traditional foes who are more cautious like S. Korea and Japan .

      The author underscores his cock gobblin credentials when he writes this:
      …, it is sobering to remember that the US went into Afghanistan to topple the Taliban in 2001 and thereby reduce the terror threat….

      Whaaat !
      I mean give it up ya clueless keyboard jockey…. Tom Clifford

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