Bi-done with Afghanistan
It took a couple of days for US President Joe Biden to interrupt his vacation at Camp David and address his people and the world still in shock at the carnage in Afghanistan.
In his remarks, Biden defended US withdrawal, while blaming his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, along with the Afghan security forces and their political leaders, for the situation in the country.
In July, Biden insisted that it was highly unlikely that the Taliban would overrun the country when US troops left.
However, in his address, he acknowledged that his Administration failed to anticipate that the group would advance so rapidly.
Biden is facing a wave of domestic and global criticism over the way in which the military withdrawal was executed.
He chose to ignore this in his remarks and, instead, rubbed salt into the wound by refusing to take any questions from reporters.
Reports of EU countries and the UK evacuating diplomatic personnel and closing their embassies in Kabul, while Russia and China announce that their embassies remain open, offer a clear answer.
China was one of the first US rivals to express its support for the Taliban-led government in Kabul, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying saying: “The situation in Afghanistan has already undergone a major transformation, and we respect the wishes and choices of the Afghan people.” The US is gone? No problem.
With the help and cooperation of the Pakistan government, China will be the alternative power providing security and economic aid for the new “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”
“Afghanistan’s Taliban have expressed many times a desire for good relations with China, with an expectation that China will take part in Afghanistan’s rebuilding and development process and will not allow any forces to use Afghanistan’s soil to harm China,” Hua said.
Beijing is already investing in Afghanistan, has poured money into the country’s infrastructure, and in the near future could be the link between Kabul and the European and Middle Eastern markets.
The scrambled US exit and the abandonment of its strongest allies have given China the perfect chance to send a message to pro-US Asian countries that they can no longer depend on Washington.
An editorial published by the Chinese state media outlet Global Times emphasized that the developments in Afghanistan should be a lesson for Taiwan’s pro-democracy party.
“Taiwan is the region that relies on the protection of the US the most in Asia, and the island’s Democratic Progressive Party authorities have made Taiwan go further and further down this abnormal path,” it read.
Meanwhile, Moscow also has its eyes on the war-torn country, with Zamir Kabulov, the Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan, sending the Taliban a clear signal that his country holds no historic grudges and is ready to move on.
“If we compare the negotiability of the colleagues and the partners, I have long since decided that the Taliban is much more able to reach agreements than the puppet government in Kabul,” Kabulov said in a television interview.
So what next? What one should expect? Will Beijing, Moscow and Islamabad form a strong trio to control the region, and keep the US and its European allies away? And what’s the future of India in South Asia?
What about the soft, hard and intelligence presence of India in Afghanistan? New Delhi has left Kabul by closing its Embassy; but what will be their strategy? Has the US has lost its reputation and credibility? These all are million dollar questions but still unanswered. One thing for sure and that’s US exit from Kabul.
—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.