China moving into Afghanistan
One of my several predictions, when President Biden surrendered in Afghanistan, was that China would be making overtures to the Taliban government. The two cultures are not natural allies. You will recall that when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan 20-plus years ago, they went on a rampage – destroying Buddhist symbols. That included the largest stone-carved depiction of Buddha in the world – which they turned to rubble with military armaments.
While the cameras and eyes of the world are on Ukraine, China has been reaching out to the Taliban. There is an overriding pragmatic consideration. Put simply, the Taliban needs money desperately and China would like access to Afghanistan’s rich resources – rare earth and lithium, to name two. And both nations see America – and the western democracies – as adversaries.
My prediction was recently vindicated by a report from the Vandenberg Coalition – a group of national security advisors, military specialists and academicians.
In looking at Afghanistan, the policy experts have seen what happened there as having a connection to Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Vindicating another of my predictions – that Biden’s leading the western nations unceremoniously out of Afghanistan would encourage Putin. He appears to have calculated that America – under Biden – and NATO were too weak and too splintered to rally around Ukraine. He may have been wrong, but the withdrawal from Afghanistan gave Putin a wrong impression – and led to the invasion.
Putin believed that the west would watch his invasion from the grandstands – as they essentially did with Georgia, Chechnya and the Crimea. To a degree, he miscalculated – but not entirely. Certainly, the new-found unity of Europe … the willingness to impose strong sanctions and provide military hardware … and the resolve and ability of the Ukraine military and populations … all came as surprises to Putin. But the United States and NATO have yet to stand up to Putin in a way that will deny him some level of victory – they have practically conceded as much in the short run.
Consequently, China can deploy its global strategies without much attention from the rest of the world. The only interest Biden & Co. seems to have in China at this moment is how Xi will deal with the Russian invasion.
Afghanistan is a troubled nation. The Taliban government can control the country with guns, but they have not been able to jump-start the economy. Millions of Afghans are going hungry – many starving. There is an ongoing guerilla war between the Taliban terrorists and the IS-K terrorists. Both groups have gained from the vacuum left by Biden’s surrender – a fact confirmed by a United Nations report on Afghan domestic terrorism.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has every reason to help the Taliban to tighten its grip on Afghanistan. It is part of a regional strategy that also involves Pakistan and other central Asian nations. China and the United States do have a common interest in mitigating the growth of radical Muslim terrorism. But, accessing natural resources is much more difficult in an unstable or violent environment. Therefore China has a keen interest in stabilizing the Taliban rule.
The Coalition recommended that the Biden Administration continue to not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government. In fact, the Chinese government has yet to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government – but that could change.
The Coalition sees the most important diplomatic strategy with Afghanistan is to undertake a number of human rights initiatives with a longer-term goal of restoring stability and civil rights – especially for women. Don’t hold your breath on that one.
There does not seem to be an easy or obvious way to put the Afghanistan Humpty-Dumpty back together again after Biden’s incredibly incompetent blunder. I wish I could be more optimistic, but I only see the Afghanistan surrender as a problem that will continue to unfold to the detriment of the United States – and much of the free world.
So, there ‘tis.