The great and regional Powers are tired of Afghanistan

More than ten opposition groups, parties and associations have already been created outside and inside Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Freedom Front, the Afghan National Liberation Front, the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, and in Turkey, a Supreme Council of National Resistance is headed by influential warlords and governors. In reality, such groups are still sluggish and, apparently, do not have real resource competencies and a support base. However, first of all, we are dealing with a political process that tends to change. Secondly, such conflicts are historically linked to great and regional powers’ will and changing policies. As Alexander Wendt, a theorist of international relations and one of the creators of the constructivist theory wrote: “Anarchy is what the great powers make of it.”

This does not mean that there are prerequisites in the near and mid-term for changing the political vector in world capitals. The great powers – the United States and China – do not show any actual signs that could be interpreted as tightening the position towards the Taliban. On the contrary, Beijing is showing timid attempts to deal with the new heads of Afghanistan to protect economic and infrastructure projects. It is also worth mentioning the allied relations between Beijing and Islamabad, which can be considered in the classical theoretical patron-client dichotomy. In fact, China’s policy on this track is operated by Pakistan, which has much more serious knowledge of Afghan realities. However, China is not the main actor in international relations, and even more so, the master of projects to support opposition insurgent groups by no means. Chinese power, at least for now and, most likely, will lie in the economic plane in the near and mid-term.

The United States, the most powerful actor in international relations, exceeding all others in its combined power, is the most interesting player in Afghan history. Apparently, Washington would like to forget about the Afghan problem by all means and deal with other strategic problems. First of all, we can talk about curbing China’s growth. To this end, a system of measures is needed to create a network of new unions that will be less amorphous and tightly integrated. These problems have the character of deep geo-economic and geopolitical issues, to which the United States would like to devote all its strength and resource potential. However, Washington’s unique and, perhaps, unique ability to construct social reality in world politics leaves the opportunity for Washington to change Afghan policy when they need it. To do this, they will need to start putting pressure on the main sponsor of radical and extremist groups in South Asia – Pakistan.

Regional actors in international life do not show much interest in Afghan politics and do not seek to change the current balance of power. First, each of them looks back at their allies or partners from the top league. Secondly, interest in Afghan politics has declined everywhere. Thirdly, a really profound change in the vector of events in the politics of Afghanistan can, apparently, only be modified by the great powers. Perhaps this is not entirely true, but according to the events of recent months in world politics, we see that regional powers are significantly inferior to their great counterparts.

India, rightly fearing the threat of the spread of jihadist forces, would like to weaken Pakistan in South Asia and the Middle East. However, there is reason to believe that New Delhi will avoid sharp actions, which, according to some experts, would meet the national interests of the South Asian hegemon. Given the rather controversial policy on the Ukrainian track, Russia has apparently dropped out of big politics in the region for a long time, possibly from among the regional powers in the East. Sanctions, which are unlikely to have analogues in history, will slow down (if not stop) the development of Russia for a long time, which will certainly affect Moscow’s influence in the southern part of the Eurasian continent, however, as in other regions of the world. Russia, which has made great mistakes, faces serious challenges: there is no need to think about the “big game”. Given an ineffective foreign policy, playing around with the Afghan problem will become an unattainable luxury for Russia.

Pakistan provides full support to radical forces within the Taliban movement but cannot totally control this movement due to many factors. There are already signs of a latent conflict between the Pakistani military and particular Taliban groups. The Central Asian countries will also suffer from the Russian decline and, presumably, will be more cautious. Uzbekistan has confidence in the correctness of the latent support vector for the Taliban government. It seems that this course will be continued one way or another. Tajikistan is extremely concerned about strengthening the Taliban, but, having no influential patrons and being bound by allied obligations with Moscow will not aggravate its anti-Taliban line. A weakened Iran is concerned exclusively with getting out of the sanctions regime and pays little attention to the Afghan problem.

However, the Taliban’s inability to build a working economic and state system in Afghanistan is obvious. The Taliban are still a radical netgroup that uses terrorism as a method of political struggle. They cannot manage a complex state system, much less create it. The Taliban were left alone with the Afghan society, with the most profound economic, social and political problems. According to the UN, the country faces a humanitarian catastrophe and starvation.

External financial reservoirs are frozen, and there is no reason to believe that the Taliban will soon have access to them. Over the past decades, the country’s budget has been formed mainly at the expense of foreign financial assistance. The economy is an unformed and unsystematic series of medium-sized enterprises that, under conditions of low domestic demand, can work exclusively at the expense of external orders. Export potential is nonexistent, and the economy lies in a grey zone. The Afghan economy with or without the Taliban is a narconomic. All this cannot but lead to an aggravation of the crisis.

Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatryan, associate professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.