Islamic Emirate (Guest blog)
Ah Afghanistan, a land of great intrigue and splendor, a land of mountainous peaks kissing the sky, glorious unending deserts, lush valleys that leaves a man breathless, an envy and desire of every aspiring empire, a land of brief ecstasy and unending sorrow better known as a graveyard where world powers come to lay down their burden and begin their journey towards a slow irreversible decline, closing the last few pages of their legendary tale and relegating themselves to the annals of history.
Afghanistan is considered the heart of Asia, whoever controls this mountainous land and commands loyalty of its rugged people can bring either prosperity or great devastation to the entire region. The latest developments inside this country have caught the intrigue of China which wants to play a central role of a mediator between the Taliban and Kabul, ushering in a period of excitement amongst analysts and politicians each weighing and dissecting its pros and cons and chances of success.
Yes this is the same Afghanistan which has yet again brought another devilish blue eyed empire to its knees, waiting for an opportune time to strike the final death blow. As it brings another chapter in its long unending war-torn history to a close, it must look further and beyond bloodshed towards peace and prosperity for its valorous, faithful, Mujahid inhabitants who have sacrificed all available meager means to establish a sovereign Islamic state.
Despite China resisting all efforts by America to draw it into a military coalition against the then Taliban government, it cannot keep idle anymore. China is an expanding power which wishes to exert influence over the region using soft power. They understand that the Taliban are a force on the ground, a reality which cannot be ignored. It enjoys the support of the entire population whereas the Kabul administration is made up of the so called elite, a select few hand-picked individuals corrupt to their bones and incompetent to the extent that it is failing miserably at projecting itself as a unity government. Herein lie two options for China which wants to bring calm in a sea of uncertainty and tap into the natural resources of Afghanistan; work with the Taliban who are expected to take over more and more territory in the near future or work with the teetering Ashraf Ghani/Abdullah unity government that is protected by an Army which cannot remain viable or cohesive as the billions of dollars of ‘aid’ money that keeps this war machine spinning dwindles as Europe and Japan face economic slowdown.
If China wishes to capitalize on the current situation in order to rebuild the Silk Road and mitigate any possible hostilities then it must employ a realistic strategy and gain from its current experiences working in Afghanistan. The Mes Ainak excavation project in Logar is in shambles because the Kabul government does not hold sway beyond the city centers while tens of millions of dollars of investment into the Kabul regime has only gone into the Swiss Bank accounts of corrupt officials. China must therefore establish direct contacts with the Taliban and not task other powers if it wants to counter threats emanating from permanent(?) military bases, resuscitate its investments and become the regional power it so desires.
The Taliban realize this reality as the US-NATO coalition begins its withdrawal. They too want to end this strife and establish peace and prosperity for its war-stricken fellow countrymen. They can offer China what no one else can, an ally against the western influence in the region, security for their current projects, research into the untapped natural treasures scattered throughout the country and a reliable partner opening pathways for expansion of business adventures into Persia, the Indian sub-continent and Central Asia. It already controls most of the countryside and commands near absolute control of its soldiers, preventing possibility of any kind of present and future escalations.
The prospects of China bringing security to a neighboring country with which it shares a 74 kilometer border by playing the role of a peace-maker look grim due to the odds stacked against it. If China truly wants to achieve reconciliation between Kabul and Taliban by playing the role of a mediator, can it for example assure that America and the foreign powers will abide by the decisions especially if the main demands of the Taliban are enforcement of Shariah and expulsion of foreign troops? If China does have such a powerful hand to enforce its promises, then maybe its outreach to the Taliban will be more acceptable but until then this venture will be looked upon as just that, another misguided attempt.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.