US Withdrawal from Afghanistan: Feedback from the Middle East

Yuriy Zinin
HELI3523The hasty withdrawal of the US and its allies from Afghanistan, its impact on the neighboring and Middle Eastern states, and the possible scenarios of the situation are being vigorously commented on by the media in the Arab world.

Most authors call this move a failure of Washington’s policy. According to the South Al-Iraq website, the US has brought nothing but chaos, political, economic instability to this country over the past 20 years.

When America leaves Afghanistan, whoever takes its place and takes power in the country will undoubtedly be the Taliban (banned in the Russian Federation). It can play a crucial role in relations with countries such as China and the Russian Federation. The Taliban is unlikely to become a quiet and good neighbor to Iran, which considers it an opponent of the Shiite minorities living inside and outside Afghanistan.

The movement could quickly flip and replace its patrons, as it did with Pakistan, who took part in its birth and creation, creating problems for Russia as well as the former Soviet republics, now independent states of Central Asia.

Many analysts see Washington’s actions to discourage local players and add more confusion to Afghan affairs. It’s about upsetting the balance of power, shuffling the players’ cards on the political scene, understandably in the name of American gains.

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, each of these countries, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, and Russia, are close to Afghanistan and have their political interests. They can overlap, and they can also collide, forming a very complex spectrum of relations between them in the region. On the one hand, they fear the penetration of the Taliban’s influence, its ideas pulsating with motions of extremism into the surrounding region. On the other hand, the aspirations of these figures are multidirectional due to the geopolitical competition in the Afghan field.

As for India, commentators estimate that over the years, it has sought to maintain good relations with the Kabul government, participating in the development of life in Afghanistan, contributing to education, irrigation, and electricity production. Public opinion in Afghanistan is favorably disposed toward cooperation with India as a major power and a force that can provide it with some assistance.  India has recently opened channels of communication with the Taliban and supported inter-Afghan negotiations in Qatar.

In the socio-political discourse of the Middle East region, one can observe that Afghanistan’s neighbors are now closely monitoring the situation, taking into account the shifts in the positions of the opposing sides in the country.  Publicists have noticed an increased focus on the Taliban and their attempt to build some bridges with them. In turn, they are sending signals to the community denying intent to inflame tensions in the region and have therefore sent delegations to Russia, China, and Iran. Beijing has hinted that it will play a significant role after the Americans leave.

Commenting on the Taliban’s military onslaught in recent weeks, UAE newspaper Al Khaleej Times believes that Afghanistan risks going back to the past and experiencing a new rendition of civil war.  According to the authors, the unpredictable developments with possible spikes in violence threaten challenges for the Russian Federation, its allies, the countries of the Middle East, especially the Arab countries.

They have breathed a sigh of relief after the attack on the Muslim Brotherhood (a formation banned in the Russian Federation) and other terrorist organizations. The latter will find a safe haven with the Taliban in the event of a revival of their activities. This is especially true of al-Qaeda (a terrorist group banned in the Russian Federation) linked to the Taliban by powerful historical threads and ideological commonalities. The hegemony of the Taliban in power in Afghanistan is fraught with the rise of various fundamentalist tendencies and support for extremism in the region.

Media circles are in favor of international efforts to curb regional threats emanating from Afghanistan.  Against this background, writes the Iraqi edition, the Arabs should be concerned about developments there, to be ready for unexpected turns and to fight back, to strengthen the ranks of friends or possible allies.