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Afghan Chess Pieces Moving Fast and Furious
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Taliban supporters gather to celebrate the US withdrawal of all its troops out of Afghanistan in Kandahar on September 1, 2021, following the Taliban’s military takeover of the country. Photo: AFP / Javed Tanveer
Taliban supporters gather to celebrate the US withdrawal of all its troops out of Afghanistan in Kandahar on September 1, 2021, following the Taliban’s military takeover of the country. Photo: AFP / Javed Tanveer

Afghanistan was the missing link in the complex chessboard of Eurasia integration. Now time is running out. After four long decades of war, getting the nation up and running as soon as possible is a pressing matter for all its neighbors.

The three key nodes of Eurasia integration are very much aware of the high stakes. Hence an all-out diplomacy drive from Russia, China and Iran to get the ball rolling.

A confab, officially named Second Meeting of Foreign Ministers – Afghanistan’s Neighbor Countries, was held on October 27 in Tehran uniting heavyweights China and Russia; Iran and Pakistan; and three Central Asian ‘stans: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Call it a sort of extended replay of the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit – where they were all discussing Afghanistan in detail. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian pointed to what everyone is aiming at. Peace, he tweeted, depends on an “inclusive government and respect for the will of the Afghan people.”

The joint statement once again revisited all the main themes: the necessity of a “broad-based political structure, with the participation of all ethno-political groups” in Afghanistan; the need for “non-interference in its internal affairs”; and an emphasis on “national sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity.”

And last but not least, the definitive red line, which is also an SCO red line: No support in any way, shape or form for any jihadi outfit.

The foreign ministers also re-emphasized what was already imprinted in the wide-ranging summit in Moscow: “Countries primarily responsible for the difficulties in Afghanistan should earnestly deliver on their commitment and provide Afghanistan with urgently needed economic, livelihood and humanitarian assistance to help realize a stable transition.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has his say. Photo: CGTN
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has his say. Photo: CGTN

The European Union has promised 1 billion euros in humanitarian assistance. So far, that’s just a promise. Washington has not sent any signs it might consider alleviating Kabul’s dire economic plight.

Nor has the Biden administration indicated it plans to release nearly US\$9.5 billion in Afghan gold, investments and foreign currency reserves parked in the US that it froze after the Taliban’s takeover – despite rising pressure from humanitarian groups and others who say the punitive measure may cause the collapse of the Afghan economy.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, after meeting with the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, went no holds barred. He had already alleged, on the record, that the US was facilitating the expansion of ISIS-K in Afghanistan – a fast-flip irony, if true, considering the terror group was responsible for killing 13 US military service members and scores of others in a late August bomb blast at Kabul’s international airport.

Then the Iranian leader doubled down, claiming that the recent sequence of terror bombings during Friday prayers in Shiite mosques in large Afghan cities has also been supported by the US.

Raisi is voicing, at a very high level, an analysis that intel services of several SCO member-nations have been actively exchanging: There’s only one major geopolitical player who benefits, divide-and-rule-style, from the chaos generated by ISIS-K.

The Russians, Iranians and Chinese are all paying close attention to all matters Afghanistan. Before his current European tour, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi dropped by Doha on Monday for the first top-level China-Afghanistan meeting since the Saigon moment on August 15.

That also marked the return to the political stage of Mullah Baradar, the acting Afghan deputy prime minister, who seems anyway to be restricted to Doha political office business.

Wang once again made it very clear that it’s crucial to engage with the Taliban “in a rational and pragmatic manner” and emphasized, at the same time, that the Taliban should “demonstrate openness and tolerance.”

Beijing’s top priority is to start dealing with a functional government in Kabul as soon as possible. The integration of Afghanistan to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and also to the now fast-developing Iran-to-China corridor is a matter of urgency.

A handout picture made available by the Iranian Red Crescent on August 19, 2021, shows Afghan refugees gathered at the Iran-Afghanistan border between Afghanistan and the southeastern Iranian Sistan and Baluchestan province, as they try to enter the Islamic republic following the takeover of their country by the Taliban. Photo: Iranian Red Crescent via AFP / Mohammad Javadzadeh
A handout picture made available by the Iranian Red Crescent on August 19, 2021, shows Afghan refugees gathered at the Iran-Afghanistan border between Afghanistan and the southeastern Iranian Sistan and Baluchestan province, as they try to enter the Islamic republic following the takeover of their country by the Taliban. Photo: Iranian Red Crescent via AFP / Mohammad Javadzadeh

But all that pales in comparison with the challenges facing a still far-from-inclusive government: the looming economic crisis, the already de facto humanitarian nightmare, and the ISIS-K terror threat.

Only two days after Wang’s meeting in Doha, and nearly simultaneously with the meeting in Tehran, Tajikistan approved the setup of a Chinese military base in its territory. So here we go again.

Expect a fierce campaign exposing “human rights abuses” by Dushanbe to pop up anytime soon.

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Why did this article take 5 days to reach my in box?

  2. The moves being made in the East are fascinating. We are witnesses to the early stages of ultimately huge changes to the socio-political reality and structure of the world.

    I am almost certain there will be a war between Iran and America/Israel in the next twenty years and China and Russia will openly help Iran. Europe will watch and side with the winner, which I am almost certain will be Iran/China/Russia.

    Does anyone else see the writing on the wall?

  3. Expect a fierce campaign exposing “human rights abuses” by Dushanbe to pop up anytime soon.

    We’re also starting to see reports of how horrible Afghanistan has become since the glorious golden age of the US Occupation ended.

    Harrowing moment Afghan dad is forced to sell daughter, 9, as bride to 55-year-old buyer as he begs him not to beat her

    https://www.the-sun.com/news/3984348/afghan-dad-sell-daughter-child-bride-food/

    Escobar was more subtle than usual with this piece, and I had to do a lot of reading-between-the-lines. Don’t know what to make of that….

  4. Was there an Afghan delegate or observer at that conference? Pepe has not much to say about what is going on in Afghanistan. Are the Afghans gearing up to restart their economy by themselves and what kind of help are they getting right now? Are they expecting a new version of Genghis Knan to come and energize them? Many questions and no answers yet.

  5. “There’s only one major geopolitical player who benefits, divide-and-rule-style, from the chaos generated by ISIS-K.”

    Errr, count again! I can count at least two – the major geopolitical player and his master.

    Then: why was Wang Yi in Doha? What has Doha got to do with Afghanistan?

    Pakistan is seriously anti-jihadi, you think so? They agreed to the joint statement, so that must be a sign, right?

    BTW, the Abraham Accords have anything to do with the swift withdrawal of US forces, yes or no?

    Escobar has written several (too many) articles exploring the thesis that Afghanistan is heading toward integration. No articles to explore the other option – a black hole and a second front against Iran.

    Must try harder.

    • Replies: @bike-anarkist
  6. @China-coloured glasses

    No articles to explore the other option – a black hole and a second front against Iran.

    One doesn’t need an article from PePe in order to try harder.
    Reports of the habits and methods of the “West” destroying an occupied country, are legion. The present attempts to further destabilize an occupied are transparent and the geo-political connections are beyond repute.

  7. Anonymous[422] • Disclaimer says:

    exposing “human rights abuses” by Dushanbe

    That’s probably a given – human rights abuses is common practice over there. The cynical part is shining a light on it only when it serves one’s own political purposes and ignoring it when Dushanbe is a “valuable ally and friend”.

    nearly US\$9.5 billion in Afghan gold, investments and foreign currency reserves parked in the US
    I hope other countries and sovereign funds are paying attention – don’t do something this stupid as give the US government this much leverage over you.

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