The US withdrawal from Afghanistan complicated the regional balance of power while providing the chance with alternative regional players to play active roles after two decades.
The rapid departure of US forces from Afghanistan has coincided with the Taliban’s rapid march across the country. The US has verified that only 10% of the pullout process remains to be completed until the end of August. On the other side, the Taliban says only 15% of the Afghan lands remains out of the group’s control. Taliban’s claim may be beyond the truth, but the fact that its gaining access to more and more lands is the truth itself.
Both events have pushed Afghanistan into the hands of alternative regional players, who may be responsible for filling the military gap left by the withdrawal. A local resolution to Afghanistan crisis has long piqued political interest. Opposing regional geopolitical viewpoints, on the other hand, diminish the possibilities for a long-term agreement.
A gathering at the level of foreign ministers under the auspices of the “Shanghai Cooperation Organization” (SCO) could provide insight into the evolving regional stance on Afghanistan issue. The organization is an essential venue for addressing Afghanistan’s issues post-withdrawal. The geopolitical, military and political significance of these alternative regional players make SCO an important factor into the resolution of Afghanistan dispute.
Beijing and Moscow founded the Shanghai Cooperation Organization 20 years ago to enhance inner-Asian stability. Concerns about US influence in years after the Cold War drove China and Russia into the establishment of the apparatus. The US democratic and human right desires were also alternate reasons behind the decision.
Less than a year after the establishment of SCO, the September 11 terrorist attacks American major cities shocked the world. Al Qaeda, which was flourishing in Afghanistan under Taliban’s unofficial patronage, claimed the attacks. The United States moved rapidly to depose the Taliban under the so-called “Great War on Terror.” The incidents pushed Afghanistan to the forefront of world affairs and placed it solidly the first priority in SCO planning structure.
The members of the SCO are China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and India. The list of observer states contains Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia. A major part of the list can act as alternative regional players for the US.
China and Russia
Neither China nor Russia, as current alternative regional players, objected to the United States military operation in Afghanistan in 2001. They have had no objections to America’s immediate objective of removing terrorist forces including Al-Qaeda. The two countries, nevertheless, were extremely concerned about the consequences of a protracted American military involvement. The US societal intervention and nation-building project were not simple cases to be taken for granted.
The collapse of the US effort in Afghanistan was the good news for Moscow and Beijing. More than three decades earlier, the United States supported an Islamist uprising against the Russian invasion and presence in Afghanistan. The developments led to an embarrassing military withdrawal by Moscow.
The US departure from Afghanistan also confirms Beijing’s belief that the Washington is on the verge of a historic collapse. American failure in Afghanistan is a tremendous ideological success for Beijing. It occurs in an era when China is presenting itself as alternative regional player to the Western structure of local and global administrative system.
For China, as an alternative economic power for the US, the new developments provide a chance to boost influence in the strategic Middle East region. Besides, Beijing sees the region as a potential market for a future when the US intensifies the economic battleship.
The alternative regional players for the US incudes many other states but definitely start with China and Russia as the emerging superpowers. The US withdrew from Afghanistan to focus on China and its spiking economic dominance. The move, nevertheless, vacates the region for better and deeper influence for China.