America and the Taliban — What’s Next?
Al-Ahram, Egypt, August 26
The confusing scenes coming out of Afghanistan in the past few weeks have raised some speculation about secret understandings that may have been reached between the United States and the Taliban. According to some observers, the Taliban agreed to work against two of America’s largest enemies – namely, Iran and China, with whom Afghanistan shares a border. However, these reports seem to lack credibility. The Taliban has no interest in launching a direct confrontation with a major superpower like China, which extended a helping hand to the movement in the past few years, and can significantly support economic development in Afghanistan. The Taliban desperately needs Beijing’s support to help its recovery efforts following years of war. Taliban leaders need no intelligence, or economic knowledge, to realize that they and China have an interest in building a strong relationship. China is ready to inject investments in Afghanistan, as the opportunity it has been waiting for a long time to link Afghanistan with Pakistan within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative is back on the table. Also, other investment projects in Afghanistan already are being discussed in Beijing, which is looking forward to activating agreements it signed with the former Afghan government, but which are yet to be implemented. Iran, too, doesn’t seem like a military front the Taliban is interested in pursuing. Despite the ideological contradiction between the Taliban and the mullahs, Iran seeks to build on a tacit alliance with the Taliban against the Americans. The Taliban will need, at least for a while, the revenue from duties on goods imported from Iran. There is no reason for it to escalate the situation on its Western border. The decision to allow Afghan Shiites to revive the Ashura rituals in Mazar-i-Sharif a few days ago sends a clear pacifying message to Tehran. All this isn’t lost on the Americans. Even if the United States reached a secret understanding with the Taliban surrounding the withdrawal of US troops from the country, it’s highly unlikely that the Taliban will willingly enter a confrontation with China and Iran, on which it depends for its survival. – Waheed Abdul Majeed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)