The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection$
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPepe Escobar Archive
The Taliban Go to Tianjin
China and Russia will be key to solving an ancient geopolitical riddle: how to pacify the 'graveyard of empires'
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
Nine Taliban representatives meet with Chinese officials in Tianjin. In the center are Taliban co-founder Mullah Baladar and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • B
Show CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeThanksLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

So this is the way the Forever War in Afghanistan ends – if one could call it an ending. Rather, it’s an American repositioning.

Regardless, after two decades of death and destruction and untold trillions of dollars, we’re faced not with a bang – and not with a whimper, either – but rather with a pic of the Taliban in Tianjin, a nine-man delegation led by top political commissioner Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, solemnly posing side by side with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Lateral echoes of another Forever War – in Iraq – apply. First, there was the bang: the US not as “the new OPEC,” as per how the neo-con mantra had visualized it, but with the Americans not even getting the oil. Then came the whimper: “No more troops” after December 31, 2021 – except for the proverbial “contractor” army.

The Chinese received the Taliban on an official visit in order once again to propose a very straightforward quid pro quo: We recognize and support your political role in the process of Afghan reconstruction and in return you cut off any possible links with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, regarded by the UN as a terrorist organization and responsible for a slew of attacks in Xinjiang.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang explicitly said, “The Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country, and will play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation, and reconstruction there.”

This follows Wang’s remarks back in June, after a meeting with the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan, when he promised not only to “bring the Taliban back into the political mainstream” but also to host a serious intra-Afghan peace negotiation.

What’s implied since then is that the excruciatingly slow process in Doha is leading nowhere. Doha is being conducted by the extended troika – US, Russia, China, Pakistan – along with the irreconcilable adversaries, the Kabul government and the Taliban.

Mullah Baradar speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right foreground) in Tianjin. Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry
Mullah Baradar speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right foreground) in Tianjin. Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem stressed that the Tianjin meeting focused on political, economic and security issues, with the Taliban assuring Beijing that Afghan territory would not be exploited by third parties against the security interests of neighboring nations.

This means, in practice, no shelter for Uighur, Chechen and Uzbek jihadis and shady outfits of the ISIS-Khorasan variety.

Tianjin has been added as a sort of jewel in the crown to the current Taliban diplomatic offensive, which has already touched Tehran and Moscow.

What this means in practice is that the real power broker of a possible intra-Afghan deal is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Russia and China are meticulously monitoring how the Taliban have been capturing several strategic districts in provinces from Badakhshan (Tajik majority) to Kandahar (Pashtun majority). Realpolitik dictates that the Taliban be accepted as serious interlocutors.

Pakistan, meanwhile, is working closer and closer within the SCO framework. Prime Minister Imran Khan could not be more adamant when addressing US public opinion: “Washington aimed for a military solution in Afghanistan, when there never was one,” he said.

“And people like me who kept saying that there’s no military solution, who know the history of Afghanistan, we were called – people like me were called anti-American,” he said. “I was called Taliban Khan.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) meets with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (2d from the window on the left side of the picture) and his delegation in Islamabad on December 18, 2020. Photo: AFP / Pakistan Prime Minister Office
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) meets with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (2d from the window on the left side of the picture) and his delegation in Islamabad on December 18, 2020. Photo: AFP / Pakistan Prime Minister Office

We are all Taliban now

The fact is that “Taliban Khan,” “Taliban Wang” and “Taliban Lavrov” are all on the same page.

The SCO is working all-out to present a road map for a Kabul-Taliban political settlement in the next round of negotiations in August. As I have been chronicling it – see, for instance, here and here – it’s all about a comprehensive economic integration package, where the Belt and Road Initiative and its affiliated China-Pakistan Economic Corridor interacts with Russia’s Greater Eurasia Partnership and overall Central Asia-South Asia connectivity.

A stable Afghanistan is the missing link in what could be described as the future SCO economic corridor, which will integrate every Eurasian player from BRICS members India and Russia to all Central Asian ‘stans.

Both President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul and the Taliban are on board. The devil, of course, is in the details of how to manage the internal power play in Afghanistan to make it happen.

The Taliban have done their crash course on geopolitics and geoeconomics. In Moscow, in early July, they had a detailed discussion with Kremlin envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov.

In parallel, even the former Afghan ambassador to China, Sultan Baheen – no Taliban himself – admitted that for the majority of Afghans, irrespective of ethnic background, Beijing is the preferred interlocutor and mediator in an evolving peace process.

So the Taliban seeking high-level discussions with the Russia-China strategic partnership is part of a carefully calculated political strategy. But that brings us to an extremely complex question: To which Taliban are we referring?

There’s no such thing as a “unified” Taliban. Most old-school top leaders live in Pakistan’s Balochistan. The new breed is way more volatile – and feels no political constraints. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement, with a little help from Western intel, might easily infiltrate some Taliban factions inside Afghanistan.

Very few in the West understand the dramatic psychological consequences for Afghans – whatever their ethnic, social or cultural backgrounds – of living essentially under a state of non-stop war for the past four decades: USSR occupation; intra-mujahideen fighting; Taliban against Northern Alliance; and US/NATO occupation.

In February 1980 Afghan refugees who have fled the area of Kabul in December 1979, are shown in the Aza Khel refugee camp near Peshawar in Pakistan. Photo: AFP / EPU
In February 1980 Afghan refugees who have fled the area of Kabul in December 1979, are shown in the Aza Khel refugee camp near Peshawar in Pakistan. Photo: AFP / EPU

The last “normal” year in Afghan society was way back in 1978.

Andrei Kazantsev, a professor at the Higher School of Economics and director of the Center for Central Asia and Afghanistan Studies at the elite MGIMO in Moscow, is uniquely positioned to understand how things work on the ground.

He notes something I saw for myself numerous times; how wars in Afghanistan are a mix of weaponizing and negotiation:

There is a little fighting, a little talking, coalitions are formed, then there is fighting again; talking again.

Some have defected over, betrayed each other, fought for a while, and then returned. It’s a completely different culture of warfare and negotiation.

The Taliban will simultaneously negotiate with the government and continue their military offensives. These are just different tools of different wings of this movement.

I’m buying: how much?

ORDER IT NOW

The most important fact is that the Taliban are, de facto, a constellation of warlord militias. What this means is that Mullah Baradar in Tianjin does not speak for the whole movement. He would have to hold a shura with every major warlord and commander to sell them whatever political road map he agrees with Russia and China.

This is a huge problem as certain powerful Tajik or Uzbek commanders will prefer to align themselves with foreign sources, say Turkey or Iran, instead of whoever will be in power in Kabul.

The Chinese might find a detour around the problem by literally buying everyone and his neighbor. But that still wouldn’t guarantee stability.

What Russia-China are investing in with the Taliban is to extract iron-clad guarantees:

  • Don’t allow jihadis to cross Central Asian borders – especially Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan;
  • Fight ISIS-Khorasan head-on and don’t allow them sanctuary, as the Taliban did with al-Qaeda in the 1990s; and
  • Be done with opium poppy cultivation (you did give it up in the early 2000s) while fighting against drug trafficking.
An Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in Dara-l-Nur, District of Nangarhar province, in 2020. Photo: AFP / Wali Sabawoon / NurPhoto
An Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in Dara-l-Nur, District of Nangarhar province, in 2020. Photo: AFP / Wali Sabawoon / NurPhoto

No one really knows whether the Taliban political wing will be able to deliver. Yet Moscow, much more than Beijing, has been very clear: If the Taliban go soft on jihadi movements, they will feel the full wrath of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

The SCO, for its part, has kept an Afghan contact group since 2005. Afghanistan is an SCO observer and may be accepted as a full member once there’s a political settlement.

The key problem inside the SCO will be to harmonize the clashing interests of India and Pakistan inside Afghanistan.

Once again, that will be up to the “superpowers” – the Russia-China strategic partnership. And once again, that will be at the heart of arguably the top geopolitical riddle of the Raging Twenties : how to finally pacify the “graveyard of empires.”

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
 
Hide 22 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. notbe says:

    Concerning Iraq at the beginning of Pepes article-
    GREAT! The US spend trillions for the Iraq war and they didnt even get the oil The reason for invading other countries is to GET THE OIL! For Gods sake, is there any other reason to invade countries? GET THE OIL! It might sound a wee bit cynical but unfortunately this is human history in a nutshell

    Saddam Husseins only real concern in the early 21st century was to preserve the dynasty he created If that meant sucking up the Americans and becoming their puppet than so be it Saddam was fully prepared to give the Americans major oil concessions -no war, no fuss the Americans wouldnt have to spend a dime Hussein would become their native satrapy Qaddafi was prepared to do the same

    In the run up to the invasion of Iraq, the Americans found some Iraqis, gave them a shower and then trotted them across various media-the Iraqis were saying that the future Iraqi government would only give oil concessions to countries that signed up on the American invasion

    Look we all know the neocons are evil but normal everyday evil people ensure that wars are fought for economic reasons-to enrich their pockets first and to enrich the winning country second

    The neocons marched into Iraq and in the end still control Iraq but they didnt ensure oil concessions

    Seriously, who the hell are these people? Planning, starting and unleashing a war and not ensuring oil concessions? Just what is going on in their brains, what is their thought pattern? The country they control is trillions in the red because of this and their country doesnt get oil concessions-the Russians and Chinese got the concessions…the two countries the neocons especially hate

    Again savor this-the neocons planned, started and unleashed a bloody and expensive war, they controlled Iraq and more or less still do…and then Russia and China got the oil concessions

    Is that normal? It is not just evil but it is something else too but contemporary mental health science is too disorganized to properly give it a name and a diagnosis at this point in time

  2. @notbe

    1.) Iraq war had nothing to do with oil

    2.) Oil is a cheap non-durable primitive resource that can do nothing to alleviate trillions in debt

    3.) US doesn’t need to pay off its debt

    4.) Iraqi Freedom was one of the least bloodiest major occupations in world history

    5.) You are a fucking idiot

    6.) Shut your computer down right now and throw it out the window

  3. notbe says:
    @JohnPlywood

    1 The Iraq War had a lot to do with oil, of course, security for Israel came first but yes it was war for oil The US increased its debt by a trillion dollars to get at that oil… and Afghan rare earth metals-that oil is now owned by the Russians and the Chinese The Afghan rare earth metals? Up in the air right now but….yeah lets face it-its gonna be the Russians and the Chinese

    2-Oil is the worlds leading commodity and most efficient source of energy by far Absolutely vital, You just been reading too many silly books on how the West is now an information economy

    3-actually it does, the US just has a fantasy that it doesnt I know some people who thought that way too and then somebody came and took their tv and car away Oh well, live and learn

    4- Iraq freedom killed about 1 million to 2 million Iraqis-it was extremely bloody, what you just wrote has no basis in reality it was a major war crime You have very bad info-so much for the information economy then

    5-no im not Whos the bigger idiot-someone who thinks Iraqi Freedom was one of the least bloodiest major occupations in world history or somebody who recognizes that it was extremely bloody and pointless If Iraq was all daises, what the fuck do you consider a moderately bloody occupation?

    6-nah i wont i like reading waco opinions like yours

    Look im against wars, especially the Iraq and Libyan wars I would hate to grow up in those places at a time when western politicians decided to kill people there-for basically no fucking good reasons

    Seriously there were no good fucking reasons to go there…except for the oil-it would help to lower down the US debt

    Of course, I do not agree with that reason for its sheer murderous immorality but, at least, I can see an evil economic justification in this

    But I cannot help but to shake my head- the basis of the neocon philosophy is that Russia and China are bad ok we can argue with that but at least its an ethos as Walter Sobchak would argue

    The neocons went into Iraq-that cost and still will cost the US over a trillion dollars ok fair enough so the US got total control of Iraq…and then Russia and China got the oil concessions, same as in Libya-sure the French and Japanese got a teeny bit and a teeny bit for Exxon to save face but really doesnt that make you shake your a head a bit?

    Do you now realize the absolute looniness of the neocons? In times of yore, Libya and Iraq had a nationalized petro industry…there was no way for any country to get concessions in those places
    The US spend over a trillion to change that policy…and the Russians and the Chinese ended up owning the place

    Really, can you think of any other historical example where a nation conquered another nation and then gave the conquest to nations it deemed its worst enemies? Oh wait, i can think of an example-when the US closed down its factories and shipped them to China

    What the fuck is wrong with neocons and Americans in general

  4. @JohnPlywood

    How many Iraqis died as a result of the invasion of Iraq?

  5. @notbe

    “Is that normal? It is not just evil but it is something else too”.
    It’s called “poetic justice ” or simply “irony”.
    The Gods above & us below, we all enjoy a good laugh!

    • Replies: @notbe
  6. notbe says:
    @animalogic

    I totally agree a war of agression, without a real justification, lasting 21 years and the agressor leaves, not exactly beaten but exhausted-and the nations that the agressor deems to be their implacable enemies get the profits-and huge profits at that and the agressor cannot do anything about it The Gods are certainly laughing

  7. @notbe

    You are right. USUK would have saved a lot of money and lives if they had simply continued to buy oil from Iraq. Unfortunately the evil tail of the USUKisrael conspiracy insisted that there should be a US war in Iraq. It was the second world war all over again: Britain lost, the US lost, and “israel” eradicated a major irritant. Lots of dead soldiers and even more dead civilians.

    Of course that was not enough for the “is”: Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Yemen needed attacking, too. How did it ever come so far?

  8. @notbe

    Seriously, who the hell are these people? Planning, starting and unleashing a war and not ensuring oil concessions?

    I remember Campaign Trump making this very point, that we didn’t get the oil.

    I miss that guy (Born 2015; Died 5 minutes after 2017 Inaugural Address.)

    • Agree: notbe
    • Replies: @notbe
  9. Malla says:

    What Russia-China are investing in with the Taliban is to extract iron-clad guarantees:
    Don’t allow jihadis to cross Central Asian borders – especially Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan;
    Fight ISIS-Khorasan head-on and don’t allow them sanctuary, as the Taliban did with al-Qaeda in the 1990s; and
    Be done with opium poppy cultivation (you did give it up in the early 2000s) while fighting against drug trafficking.

    Simple as that, why could the American deep State come up with such a simple solution. Stop Opium and we extract resources and give you guys a cut with taxes and baksheesh. I guess the CIA wanted the opium and the military Industrial complex wanted the war to test their over-expensive weapons on mud huts. Burn American tax payer’s money and defense companies make the profits.

    • Replies: @BlackFlag
  10. Malla says:
    @notbe

    Saddam Husseins only real concern in the early 21st century was to preserve the dynasty he created If that meant sucking up the Americans and becoming their puppet

    Saddam was a CIA dude in his youth in Egypt, he was America’s guy all along till the Americans tricked him and turned on him.

    • Replies: @notbe
  11. notbe says:
    @Sick of Orcs

    exactly Born 2015; Died 5 minutes after 2017 Inaugural Address

  12. notbe says:
    @Malla

    it would have been cheaper much, much cheaper to keep him as a CIA dude instead of tricking him he, himself had no problems with that…whatever it took to maintain him and his dynasty in power he would take

    but the end result is Russia and China have the oil…good for them, im not jealous of their succesfull strategy, in fact I admire them but I just have to wonder that on the American side someone did not think things through-
    but that the basic family of origin with the neocons -pure emotion and pure dedication to Israel, and to hell to everything else

    No skin off my back, I think my woefull pension fund has only Norwegian oil investments so it dont matter to me but even so WTF really WTF is wrong with the necons…and Americans in general

    • Agree: Malla
    • Replies: @Malla
  13. @JohnPlywood

    It sure had a lot to do with selling oil in Euros.

    Elsewise, what’s your reason for the invasion?

    Fun? Getting some sweet Iraqi migrants?

  14. Malla says:
    @notbe

    ((They)) are using America to the maximum as their tool to further their globalist agendas before the USA is destroyed.

    • Replies: @notbe
  15. notbe says:
    @Malla

    well, why wont americans see this and either hang em high or put em in jail or at least criticize then a wee bit

    it should be a no brainer for a politician to say…hell im no filthy neocon and on my watch there wont be no filthy neocons in responsible positions, if they sneak in ill throw em out either peacefull like or with a baseball bat theyll get a choice, now if you dont like wot im sayin missy then go eat sh.. for all i care cause the american people are with me

    …yet the exact opposite is the case-has there ever been a society in world history more totally corrupted than that of America?…foreign policy, cultural life, relations between the TWO genders, economics all in sh.. or goin to sh…and mind you, america started out with so many things going for it-no other civilization had so many benefits at the start

    The Gods above give you gifts then watch if develop hubris or decadence-then they punish

    • Agree: Malla
    • Replies: @Malla
  16. BlackFlag says:
    @Malla

    why could the American deep State come up with such a simple solution…I guess the CIA wanted the opium

    To be fair, why would the US want to eliminate the poppy fields?

    I assume that China and Russia care because they are nearby and smuggling of opium into their territory is a big problem. Though I wonder if Russia and China even care about that. Maybe just stating it for PR reasons.

    On the other hand, maybe not much of the Afghani opium produce makes it way to the US due to the distance. Smuggling opium across long distances as not as easy as it was in the 80s when Golden Triangle opium made its way into USA. Though I also doubt the US state cares about an influx of heroin into their country.

    • Replies: @Malla
  17. @JohnPlywood

    You hsve a few knots in your upper balconies ——-Freedom in Iraq??? USA wanted to destroy ALL middle East Countries —Iraq Iran Syria Libya—it is in DC’s playbook —–

  18. “USA just go home and split the 780 worldwide bases inot your 50 states for self protection. Your Hegemon Empire is collapsing right in your present line of vision and with Amtrak Joe spending coin like an alcoholic runs through drinks —the game of world domination will be over in the next 5 years–bankrupt and forfeiting all assets….” and this guy Cmmie Carl really has Fester tied in knots these days. I really wonder what someone intelligent has to offer —perhaps Pat Buchanan or Tucker Carlson?

    • Replies: @notbe
  19. @notbe

    “Collin Powell at UN with test tube was Direct Evidence that Saddam was bad” and this was the deal of that day—-today it is China and Covid —-USA MUST have enemies —real or imagined to make DC lobbyists well off and the war machine well oiled”………AND this comes from the Bible —better to give than receive—–strike first then cover will a LIE –A BIG ONE..

  20. Malla says:
    @BlackFlag

    Agreed. The USA is far away (as if the CIA or sections of the CIA, cares about the welfare of American people) but Europe and Asia are nearer and are more at risk. I was seeing this video long time back about some Russian drug rehabilitation workers in Siberian Russia and they believed that many Islamic organisations (maybe in collusion with the CIA) from Afghanistan and Central Asia want to drug and weaken the Russian people living in Siberia for future demographic/geopolitical reasons.

  21. Malla says:
    @notbe

    cultural life, relations between the TWO genders, economics

    Amrica is slowly made by the tribe as a new Babylon or whore of Babylon, so when America falls most nations would not mind to see the death of the “crazy nation”. Then the tribe will write in future history books about evul wicked Babylon America with its Sodomy, mass Homosexuality, promiscuity etc… and contrast it with pious Zion Israel. LOL. History repeats itself. But it is the tribe in Murica who were the seed of Babylon. Like they were the seed of evil in the original Babylon.
    And like they opened the gates of Babylon to the Persians to only screw the Persians later (Hamam, directing Arabs against Persia with nascent Islam), they may open the gates of Babylon Murica to Persia China to screw China later too. Who knows.

    • Agree: notbe
  22. notbe says:
    @GomezAdddams

    …I really wonder what someone intelligent has to offer —perhaps Pat Buchanan or Tucker Carlson…

    someone intelligent would never be allowed to be a politican in todays america- ah, perhaps if someone plays the fool, accumulates power and then strikes out of the blue- that has happened in world history several times…but, again, that is unlikely to happen in todays america

Current Commenter
says:

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
$
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Commenting Disabled While in Translation Mode
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Pepe Escobar Comments via RSS