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China, Pakistan and Their Secret Wars in Afghanistan

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan (Retd)
Sat, 14 Aug 2021   |  Reading Time: 9 minutes

China, Pakistan and Their Secret Wars in Afghanistan

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan (Retd)

In 2014 then US President Obama announced that he plans to cut the 34000 strong American forces in Afghanistan by 70 percent. He further stated that by 2015 he intends to bring the strength to 5500 and by 2016 a complete withdrawal. The situation with ISIS didn’t allow him the luxury of complete withdrawal.

The Trump administration, in fact initially increased the number of troops to 14000 before giving a complete withdrawal plan by 2022. However, it is the Biden administration which fast-tracked the withdrawal to 2021. Today, the withdrawal of the American forces is a reality that is staring at the Afghan government.

It is a deja-vu kind of feeling about Afghanistan. Just 20 years back the al-Qaeda changed the way one looked at Afghanistan. The situation started to change after 9/11. However, with the US withdrawal, Afghanistan is about to plunge into darkness once again, and it worries two countries the most, China and Pakistan.

 The Taliban Game Plan

8th Aug 2021: The Taliban territory in red, Afghan government in grey, contested in orange

As of early August 2021, the Taliban controlled over 85 percent of the Afghan territory. They hold almost all the border districts that matter. Town after town is falling and Afghan forces are giving up without putting up a fight. The Taliban have clear-cut aims in Afghanistan:

  • Establish an Islamic government with control over as much territory as possible
  • Give assurances & sign pacts but keep China, Pakistan, and the US on the tenterhooks
  • Apply extreme pressure on Pakistan & China and extract maximum from their nervous moves

The Taliban are aware that pulling down the government in Kabul would not be in their interest. It would unnecessarily attract international attention, probable military action, and sanctions. If the Taliban are intelligent enough they would rule the roost without decimating the Afghan government. What could be better than enjoying the power and still not be responsible? Over the years the Taliban has matured, however, keeping the records of the Taliban in mind, nothing is ruled out, even a move that would not serve them any purpose.

The Taliban is not an unknown entity for China. They have been engaging with each other in the past. China prefers to work with governments of the country, regardless of regime type. Even in Pakistan’s case also, they know who wields the power and who to talk to. However, in Afghanistan’s case, they are in flux.

What transpired between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on 28 July is better known to them, but in the past Beijing has offered investments in energy and infrastructure projects in exchange for peace. This time around they could have offered much more. China has also been showing the carrot of expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan for a long time. But heart-to-heart Chinese leadership is aware that whatever they do, their dream project BRI and along with those billions of dollars of investment is heading for doom.

The fundamental worry of China is the Taliban‘s close relationship with the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The Taliban is in no position to dwell in realpolitik while dealing with other militant groups. In the Badakhshan which is now under Taliban control, the bulk of the fighters are Tajik, Uzbek, Uighur, and Chechen. The Taliban understands it very well that the continuous supply of these foreign fighters is very important for their existence. Therefore, even though the Taliban has assured China that Afghan soil would not be used against Chinese interests, both parties know it well that keeping that promise would be very difficult.

Another worried entity in the region is Pakistan. They hate Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his team to the core but charming the Taliban has its side effects. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or the so-called “Pakistani Taliban”, would surely benefit from the rise of the Taliban. TTP has long been challenging Pakistani establishment within Pakistan. They have also carried out operations against Chinese workers, working on various projects in Pakistan. Two Taliban groups have a complex relationship but still, the Afghan Taliban has long provided sanctuary to the TTP, and that equation is not going to change.

Chinese Dilemma and Frustration

China throughout objected to the stay of American forces in Afghanistan. Now, as the withdrawal has become a reality and the situation is deteriorating, China has changed tack. It is criticizing the US for the abrupt exit. A lot is going on in the worried Chinese leadership’s mind. Broad issues are:

  • Security of CPEC
  • Security of BRI, especially Tajikistan-Iran section
  • Security of existing natural gas pipelines in Turkmenistan and proposed ones in Tajikistan
  • Dashed dreams of the ‘Five Nations Railway Project’
  • Future of investment in ‘Digital Silk Road’ and copper mining
  • The threat of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Xinjiang

China’s interest in Afghanistan is primarily related to the security of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Chinese government can circumvent Afghanistan while creating the infrastructure, however, it would not be easy enough for the Chinese government. Afghanistan sits at the confluence of two major thoroughfares. These important routes go westward to Central Asia and southwards via China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. Any instability in Afghanistan means a threat to these very important parts of BRI.

Five Nation Railway Corridor: Courtesy insightful.co.in

China was gung-ho about another ambitious BRI initiative, ‘The Five Nations Railway Project’. The project illustrates Afghanistan’s strategic location in the region. The 2100 km, railway project was to connect China with Central Asia (Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan), Afghanistan, Iran, and Europe. The continuation of a strong Afghan government was an ideal proposition for China, and they must be sorely missing the US security umbrella.

Digital Silk Road’ program of BRI: Courtesy insightful.co.in

Afghanistan also provides the shortest path for China’s fiber optics linkage to the Middle East and Europe. Under the ‘Digital Silk Road’ program of BRI China has invested in Afghanistan’s fiber optics connectivity through Wakhan Corridor. It was achieved through an agreement signed in August 2017. It was a win-win situation for Chinese authorities. The United States was fighting the bad guys and China was expanding its business.

China also had high hopes of reviving the Mes Aynak mines contract, the world’s second-largest copper deposits. The Chinese government had also expressed interest to invest in marble and alabaster mineral extraction. As of now, everything seems to be in limbo.

With the rejuvenation of the Taliban, the Chinese fear of a revival of the separatist movement in the Xinjiang region could become a reality. The Chinese fears may not be misplaced, even though in the recent past virtually every attack in China has been indigenous one, and not tied to any international network. However, the scenario is fast changing. Turkestan Islamic Party or ETIM has emerged as a more capable player, learning from the Syrian civil war.

Another concern of China has been about the return of more battle-hardened fighters from northern Syria. In the last decade or so China has also been targeted by various other militant and terrorist groups that had previously given it a pass. China knows that the Taliban may turn a blind eye to Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang due to their commitment to China, but the situation within Afghanistan is becoming conducive for these groups to flourish. The attacks on the Chinese mainland may not be possible but the Chinese interests are spread far and wide. Its businesses are not safe, be it Central Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. The worst thing is that China has no strategy or plan to counter that. It relied too heavily on the American presence, all over the region.

Pakistan At the Centre of Every Storm

China has three well-defined goals in Pakistan:

  • Keep the pot boiling between India and Pakistan
  • Utilize Pakistan in Afghanistan to achieve objectives
  • Restrict independent Pakistani policy & decision making

Soon after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power, it recognized two important facts. First, India would rise and challenge China in the future. Second, the Pakistani Army in its desire to be relevant would do just about anything.

Pakistan’s strategic location could have been a boon to the country, but for some strange reason, they chose the divergent path. Afghanistan connects to Pakistan at four railway points. These connections can potentially link Afghanistan to the CPEC and Pakistan to Central Asia for business. However, Pakistan never took that road because that neither suits China nor the Pakistani Army. In the bargain Pakistan losses about $2 billion annually in bilateral trade.

The Taliban were completely wiped out of Afghanistan by 2002. However, when the United States shifted focus to Iraq in 2004, the Pakistani Army used this opportunity, extended helping hand to the Taliban and they regained their major force status in Afghanistan. Help or no help, the Taliban remain an unreliable entity. Pakistan, for all its assumed influence, is unable to convince the Taliban to give up its engagement with the TTP. The Taliban have not even honoured its promise to disavow al-Qaeda.

Even though these policies served the purpose of the Pakistan Army well, they didn’t benefit Pakistan as a nation. Today Pakistani Army finds itself stuck between the rock and a hard place. China is aware of Pakistan’s hold over the Taliban. Therefore, they are pressurizing the Pakistani Army to rein in local as well as Afghan Taliban. Due to western pressure and fear of sanctions, Pakistan for the time being is distancing itself away from the Taliban, but not for long. Pakistani NSA Moeed Yusuf has labelled Pakistan and Afghan Taliban as the two sides of the same coin. Pakistan’s situation is precarious. If they recognize and work with the Taliban they are in trouble from the west and if they don’t, then also they are in trouble from China. But the most severe blow would come from the Taliban who would stop Pakistan Army’s drug money.

Where Does India Stand

Even though from Mahabharata to Chandra Gupta to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and many other Indian kings had subdued Afghanistan in the past, modern India has always indulged in constructive activities in Afghanistan. This fact is recognized by the Afghan government but the Taliban is not ready to acknowledge this distinction.

India has pledged over US$3 billion towards the social and economic causes of Afghanistan. It is a signatory of the ‘Strategic Partnership Agreement’ and continues to assist Afghan security agencies. India provides them with logistical support and trains cadet officers in the Indian military academies.

In the present scenario, India would be walking a very tight rope. Engage or not to engage with the Taliban would be a million dollars question. India would be risking goodwill with the Afghan government as well as the Afghan citizens. India’s engagement with the Taliban should be overt. This would give assurance to the Afghanis who do not side with the Taliban.

The Future is Bleak But Crystal Clear

The civil war in Afghanistan is a foregone conclusion. The Afghani President Ashraf Ghani is preparing for the long haul. This is not good news for the region in general and China & Pakistan in particular.

The situation in Afghanistan would make China, particularly a very nervous nation. They have a lot riding on Xi Jinping’s signature project, the BRI. Ever since he has taken charge of the affairs, the Chinese growth rate has stagnated, approval ratings have plummeted, and population growth has shown a downward trend. This makes him a very worried person. In the nervousness, he keeps seeking loyalty and support from PLA in all his interactions. He knows that Chinese citizens would not ride the fake nationalism wave for long. He will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat or perish.

To ensure the safety and security of its projects, China will lean heavily on Pakistan. Eventually, China would press Pakistan to intervene in Afghanistan, militarily. The question is whether Pakistan has the capacity and capability to control events in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is going to be Pakistan Army’s Waterloo. When that happens China will use its economic might to create a bloc of vassal states and unleash corruption, weak governance, and instability in not just Afghanistan but the whole of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and Pakistan. Using the bloc China would try to achieve its objectives and avoid accountability at the United Nations.

Countries like India need to be extra guarded. Strategic co-operation between Pakistan, China, and Russia is at an all-time high and that doesn’t augur well for the South Asian giant. India must engage Russia regularly to safeguard its investment and hard work of 20 years in troubled Afghanistan. India must step up its cooperation with Iran to ensure that Iran doesn’t fall for any Chinese bloc which is detrimental to the region. Lastly, India must develop a strategy to counter Pakistan’s obsession with blocking India in Afghanistan, which has reached an all-time high.

At the end as Edward Rutherfurd says, “All empires become arrogant. It is their nature.” Afghanistan has been the graveyard of many empires. Would it become a graveyard of Xi Jinping’s presidency and tame his arrogance? Many Chinese leaders are waiting in the wings to replace Xi Jinping, only time would tell who would take that courageous step and when.

**********

References:

  • ecfr.eu/article/after-the-withdrawal-chinas-interests-in-afghanistan
  • rand.org/blog/2019/03/trumps-latest-move-on-afghanistan-is-a-repeat-of-obamas.html
  • thediplomat.com/2021/08/china-in-afghanistan-trade-and-terrorism
  • lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/china-s-afghan-conundrum
  • longwarjournal.org/mapping-taliban-control-in-afghanistan
  • interrail.ag/en/extensions/news/artikel/new-train-connection-china-afghanistan-a-success
  • scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3136112/china-seeks-expand-belt-and-road-afghanistan-name-security-us
  • library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/kabul/15587.pdf
  • carnegieendowment.org/files/reconciling_with_taliban.pdf
  • wilsoncenter.org/article/what-does-taliban-want-event-summary
  • cfr.org/backgrounder/taliban-afghanistan
  • lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/pakistan-fuelling-taliban-takeover
  • theconversation.com/afghanistan-after-the-us-withdrawal-the-taliban-speak-more-moderately-but-their-extremist-rule-hasnt-evolved-in-20-years-164221
  • futuredirections.org.au/publication/indias-decision-to-negotiate-with-the-taliban-could-undermine-its-efforts-to-establish-a-democratic-afghanistan/

Author

A veteran of the Indian Navy, Cdr Sandeep Dhawan served in the Navy from 1988 to 2009. He was a Maritime Reconnaissance Pilot and a Flying Instructor. He is a geopolitical analyst and writes for the various online websites and organizations. His Twitter handle is @InsightGL.


Disclaimer

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POST COMMENTS (42)

TP MADHU

Aug 20, 2021
I am reading this on 20 Aug and events have overtaken all predictions. Your analysis of China's intentions are intriguing and worth further exploration. Could these events in Afghanistan and the rumblings in China lead to a change of regime in Pakistan also ?

Vinayak

Aug 20, 2021
Things seemed to have happened before time. It was a shame to see Afgani Govt Forces offering no resistance and the President fleeing the country. Besides what Cdr Sandeep has mentioned following could also happen. A. Islamization of middle east and neighbouring countries could receive new imputus and leadership and the first victim could be Pakistan itself. B. Islamic migrants from various nations have already established a Firm Base in many Europeans countries. Thererefore their reach and extent could gain much wider support and spread across continents. C. It seems that the stage is getting set for the beginning of "The war of Religions or the war of civilizations".. The Third World War. Middle East could be the flash point... It will be interesting to see how Saudi, UAE, Kuwait participate from here onwards.

Sanjeev ex Navy

Aug 20, 2021
A great all rounded article with in-depth inputs on what role India need to take so that we don't deviate from our image of a country who has always opposed any from of terrorism (inhouse as well as outside)... totally agree with author views on future being bleak , as it's hard to predict. Northern alliance impact cannot be ignored.

Srinivas Kanugo

Aug 17, 2021
The above well researched article is very relevant in the wake of many uncertainties. Whether the approach is different from this time, time will only tell. India needs to be one step ahead to steer our interests as we can't sacrifice the gains that we have achieved so far.

D’Nanda

Aug 17, 2021
Thank you for laying out the situation in Afghanistan in such a factual, balanced way, Commander. You’ve helped me to go beyond the headlines here. I appreciate your approach very much.

Praveen Bhaik

Aug 16, 2021
Great read Sandeep. Very informative and Wonderfully articulated as always. Keep it going 🙏🏻🙏🏻

YOGESH PAI

Aug 16, 2021
brilliant analysis of the tense situation in Afghanistan. yesterday Kabul also has fallen. things are moving faster for the worse than expected! my only question here is on the US leadership displaying irresponsible attitude and not even rescuing their own. The sudden pullout was a disastrous decision. The future there is bleak and I feel India needs to stay out of this mess as much as possible. Let China & Pakistan engage the Taliban and help each other on the path of self destruction. India should step and take over only after Pakistan, China & Taliban have finished each other off!

Atul Dewan

Aug 16, 2021
Interesting development in Afghanistan, still very early to decipher clearly the road and geopolitics and strategic implications for the region

Simon Templar

Aug 16, 2021
At this time in space the only Americans who hate war are the grunts.

Simon Templar

Aug 16, 2021
Retired USMC infantry officer and did one 'pump' with Blackwater to Herat, Afghanistan. President Biden is creating untold suffering. This did not have to end this way.

Rakesh P

Aug 16, 2021
Your prophecy is coming true. Kabul has fallen. The whole region is in disarray. Thank you so much for such a wonderful analysis.

Deovrat Pagay

Aug 15, 2021
So Taliban is back in Afghanistan. I my opinion, this will be a turning point as regards strategic, political and economic front in Central Asia. As rightly brought out by the author, Pakistan and China, in that order will bear the brunt. Taliban has a rich experience from fighting battles in many countries. Sympathizers are aplenty. Now it remains to be seen as to what is Taliban’s focus and intent.

Rajeev

Aug 15, 2021
Different but interesting perspective. As always, very well researched and with thoughtful details prevailing in the region. Well done Sandy.

Sid Gupta

Aug 15, 2021
Great job Sandy. Great insight and fair description of some of the moves happening as things unfurl. Let’s see how it shapes up.

Gp Capt TR Ravi VM (Ret'd)

Aug 15, 2021
Fantabulous analysis on how Taliban could be a pain in their assessments as how the future would unfold in Asian subcontinent. Great Article!!!! Thank You, Commander!!!

SANJAY BODKHA

Aug 15, 2021
Well researched article. With American withdrawal, Taliban has claimed most of Afghanistan. China would like to use Pakistan to protect her interests in Afghanistan. Situation well explained in the article with clear role for India. Hot topic with International repercussions...Well written.

Hemant P Kumar

Aug 15, 2021
A thought provoking article. Afghanistan, as stated, has been the graveyard of many an empire. US probably took a wrong decision thus time. Taliban are ruthless extremists fighters and should have no place on this planet. Biden has only supported and encouraged Taliban by withdrawing. History will brand him as a weak leader....he has just started the downswing of USA. China on the other hand is looking for Pak-Afghan access to the gulf. Pure Pak access is not likely to happen with a stronger India undermining POK status and a stronger Baloch resistance further weakening the ambitious project. Great researched work Sandeep.👏👏👏

Rajesh Dhawan

Aug 15, 2021
Very well articulated to depict all facts and figures to understand in simplicity ,the history & Geopolitical too complex situation in Afghanistan and it's effect on neighbouring countries. In nutshell it is, Obama pull out from Iraq, ISIS takeover. Biden pull out from Afghanistan, Taliban takeover and confused neighborhood. The lesson is much simpler for US. Unfortunately, despite all the prior lessons, they just don’t learn from Vietnam 2.0, Nigeria and now Afganistan. Actually, Taliban is Bhasmasura created by US themselves to counter Russian forces. And now Russia, Chinta and Pakistan will also have same fate if they go with them. India should be beware of them.

ASHOK IYER

Aug 15, 2021
This is an excellent opportunity for India to curtail Chinese hegemonic endeavours, destabilize Pakistan and also to enhance our influence in the region. An unstable Afghanistan works in India’s interests. We just have to work on keeping the pot boiling. The US & NATO will continue to provide military support to the Afghan government. We can offer financial inducements to the greedy Afghan warlords in order to ensure that there is no abatement in violence over there. At the same time we can offer moral, political & financial support to the highly oppressed groups like the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) so that they can fight for the liberation of their respective provinces from Pakistani and Chinese tyranny. It is a well established fact that Pakistani soldiers, disguised as Taliban fighters, are supporting the Taliban in their fight against the Afghan government. So, it would be ideal for us to start aggressive manoeuvres on our borders with Pakistan. This will force Pakistan to divert its resources from its western front to the Indian border in order to counter India. This will weaken the Taliban struggle thus ensuring more fierce fighting inside Afghanistan. At the same time the BLA will have a better opportunity to liberate Balochistan. The ETIM’s attacks on China and Chinese interests will put China in a quagmire as it’s already facing heavy pressures on its eastern front, especially the South China Sea, not to mention its weakening economy and the rapidly spreading Covid Delta variant inside China. If India plays its cards correctly then, not only POK but also Tibet could become an integral part of India in the near future.

JJ Nijhawan

Aug 15, 2021
Brilliant, as the saga unfolds in real time

Rajeev Dalal

Aug 15, 2021
Sandeep's analysis is a realistic possible outcome of the ongoing (mis) adventures by the Western world ,China and Pakistan.An interesting take .

Ashish Popli

Aug 15, 2021
As always, the author has achieved a few things ..shown his grasp over geopolitics, not shied away from sticking his neck out and giving a net assessment and lastly educated us yet again with a fine perspective. Well written...lucid, simple.. effective.

Raghu Vir Gauba

Aug 15, 2021
An incisive analysis ! Hope like hell that Pork-istan and Chin-istan encounter their nemesis in Afghanistan and get sorted out for centuries to come . What strategic objectives the presence of Multinational Force could not achieve may be achieved by their departure. India needs to stoke disaffection in Tibet and Xinjiang region to make the most out of present situation in Afghanistan.

delta

Aug 15, 2021
Nicely researched article which gives a good Insight into the present afghanistan politics/situation and likely future course of action of the affected countries and neighbours...

Ashit Patel

Aug 15, 2021
A well researched and analysed article . The Taliban coming to power will have repercussions in Asia politically and economically if not checked

Ashit Patel

Aug 15, 2021
A thought provoking article . Well researched and analysed which have repercussions in Asia

Arun Kumar

Aug 15, 2021
Very thoughtful indeed. Very well researched, clearly written and explained in simple language. Expect more articles on the subject which will keep the neighbours engaged in times to come. Regards

Rominad

Aug 15, 2021
Very clear and crisp writing Commander Sandeep Dhawan ! Well researched article .

Veteran Go Capt Vasant Raj

Aug 15, 2021
Beautiful insight of the current situation. Any side colluding with the Taliban will face the brutal truth sooner or later. I guess, so is China & Pak. The earlier they realise, that factions like Taliban, do not have concept of a stable outlook, the better it is for them OR Could it be that the World powers too are observing as to who would emerge as stronger contender in the region, for their own future needs???

Narinder Pal Singh Hora

Aug 15, 2021
Another well researched and thought provoking article. It's time for India to take some hard decisions as ground realities change and Taliban as on date controls 80% of Afghanistan territory. Engaging them will not put India on the back foot with current regime but clear the picture with Taliban with India's perspective concerning its interests in the region.

Mahesh

Aug 15, 2021
You write well Sandeep. Crisp views and good expression👍

Col Harjinder Singh

Aug 15, 2021
Very well researched article. Sandeep's understanding of Geo- political issues is getting better day by day. He always comes out with something new for his readers. India must realize that Taliban as a future Govt of Afghanistan is a reality. Whether they rule from Kandahar or Kabul does not matter. So, why hesitate or shy away in dealing with them directly. We need to have a clear cut understanding with them that they will not look toward Kashmir or hurt Indian intrest at the behest of Pakistan. In Geo politics, for the sake of your strategic intreast you don't sit tight but change your options as per ground realities.

Wendell Bruges

Aug 15, 2021
A very timely and apt article, Commander. As you must have been writing, things kept changing at a very fast pace. Today, the US is once again forced to position 3000 Marines to safeguard Kabul airport and the US Embassy. As always, very informative, incisive, and a peep into the future of Afghanistan & the region.

Capt(IN) Sanjay Jaiswal

Aug 15, 2021
Very well articulated and presented article. A well researched. Brings out agenda of China to the world. One has to wait and watch.

Raman

Aug 15, 2021
Taliban's evolution as a politically savvy player is very apparent. This obviously has been facilitated by China and Pak for their own nefarious designs. Afghans, pakistanis and Indians, all are affected adversely by the rise of the Taliban. Thanks for the detailed analysis

Harpal

Aug 15, 2021
Excellent Article on Afghanistan & Taliban. Lots at stake for the world especially India, Pakistan & China. Let’s see how things shape up

GP Singh

Aug 15, 2021
Well researched and aptly analysed. Very informative.

Levina Neythiri

Aug 14, 2021
Good one Cdr Sandeep Dhawan! You have covered every aspect of this war. Your articles are always well researched. 👍

Sanjay

Aug 14, 2021
Brilliant article Sandeep. Covered all variables to the current situation exhaustively and insightfully . Thanks

Veteran Col Atul Kumar

Aug 14, 2021
Brilliant piece of analysis of a complex issue. Chinese coziness to Taliban due to its economic interests and long term strategic designs needs indian proactive response. Keeping positive alignment with Afghan Govt and maintaining an overt neutral relationship with Taliban while ensuring fault lines remain between Taliban, IS(K) and other factions would need careful orchestration of diplomatic and back channel activities. Sandeep writes in a manner easily understood by all. Well done bro. Jai Hind.

Rammohan

Aug 14, 2021
Hope the Afghanistan as a country survive the crisis

Debanil Bhattacharya

Aug 14, 2021
Cdr Sandeep Dhawan’s analysis of the rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan is truly insightful. The Afghan Taliban have swiftly and proactively capitalised on the situation obtaining from the accelerated US withdrawal from the region, giving the World in general and the regional players in particular, barely any time to even formulate a strategy, let alone implement one. An extremely well rounded piece of writing that brilliantly sums up the affairs in this troubled part of the world.

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