Current Afghanistan Situation; and Geopolitical Stances of Global and Regional Powers

Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan

(Published on 30th November 2021)


Current Afghanistan Situation

Afghanistan is currently beset with serious problems extreme economic shortfall, serious shortage of food and other livelihood means, and acts of terrorism launched by Daesh and other terrorist groups. However there are some rays of hope too, albeit a bit dim at present, of recovery from these problems.

In the context of the extreme economic shortfall and scarcity of livelihood means it is essential to note that these problems had arisen and multiplied during the last twenty years of the criminal malpractices of the USplanted governments in Afghanistan.

That fact was clearly highlighted by James Emery, a cultural anthropologist, who has covered Afghanistan for over 35 years. In his article of 19th of November this year he has highlighted (italics added), The rapid fall of Afghanistan government and forces was predictable to those who are familiar with the vast levels of corruption that plagued the country during the last twenty years.  Widespread corruption, cronyism, extortion, and theft permeated all aspects of Afghan society, from the presidential palace and top government officials to lowly civil servants and cops, who routinely shook down the population for money and merchandise. Corruption was the cancer that consumed Afghanistan, leaving a flaccid, shell of a country that could only exist if it was perpetually propped up by foreign money and military forces. (1)   

The World Bank (WB) had similarly reported on 8th October this year that (italics added), Even before the collapse of government, Afghanistan was facing daunting economic and development challenges. Afghanistan’s economic growth was slow up to August 2021, reflecting weak confidence amid a rapidly worsening security situation, and severe drought conditions negatively affecting agricultural production. In addition, Afghanistan experienced a third COVID-19 wave starting in April. (2)

The latest state of these problems has been highlighted, quoting the UN’s data, by London, UKbased The New statesman on 19th of November this year. Some extracts of that report (3) are (italics added) :-  

  • With economic output expected to fall by up to 30 per cent this year, an estimated 8.7 million people are now close to starvation the highest number anywhere in the world. That is thought to include a million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which requires emergency hospital attention;
  • As many as 19 million Afghans are already facing severe food insecurity, a toll expected to rise by four million this winter. That will put 58 per cent of the population at serious risk of hunger, ——. The UN estimates that 97 per cent of Afghans will be living in poverty by next summer;
  • Droughts have happened in Afghanistan before, but in past drought years, what would happen is that people from rural areas would migrate to cities for work and for assistance,” the World Food Programme’s Jean-Martin Bauer, who authored the report on Afghanistan, told the New StatesmanThat urban safety net isn’t there anymore because of the collapse of the urban economy; and
  • The US responded to the fall of Kabul by cancelling dollar shipments and freezing $9.5bn of Afghanistan’s central bank assets, with European banks quickly following suit. The result was that the Taliban took office with access to no more than 0.2 per cent of the country’s international currency reserves, —-.

These dire problems of increasing scarcity of means of livelihood are raising serious concern about the possibility of breakup of law and order resulting in the destabilisation of Afghanistan; further resulting in mass exodus of Afghans to neighbouring countries, thereby destabilising the whole region.

The terrorist attacks launched by Daesh are also a serious challenge to the writ of the current government in Afghanistan.

On the other hand there are rays of hope too. For many months even prior to their taking over the government in Kabul, Afghanistan Taliban leadership was engaging the global and regional powers diplomatically in a pragmatically skilful manner. That paid rich dividends, and most of those powers are now trying to somehow help the current Afghanistan government in alleviating the economic and humanitarian problems of the country, despite withholding official recognition of that government for the time being. Those pronounced stances of such global and regional powers are an effective counterbalance to the hidden designs of those global and regional powers which are opposed to the ousting of the previous USplanted government in the country.

Besides that, the current Afghanistan Taliban government is clearly reflecting its strategic willto survive all odds and ultimately succeed to flourish a feat of their ingrained ability of marked resilience and valour, as demonstrated by them in defeating the sole super power (US). The latest show of their unruffled strategic resilience and determination to ultimately establish their government’s writ and bring peace and stability in the country was their military parade in Kabul. In that parade: (a) Taliban paraded captured American-made armoured vehicles and Russian helicopters in a display that showed their ongoing transformation from an insurgent force to a regular standing army”; (b) The parade was linked to the graduation of 250 freshly trained soldiers, defence ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khwarazmi said”; and (c) Taliban officials have said that pilots, mechanics and other specialists from the former Afghan National Army would be integrated into a new force, which has also started wearing conventional military uniforms in place of the traditional Afghan clothing normally worn by their fighters. (4)

These facts do kindle the rays of hope.


Stances of Global and Regional Powers which wanted continuation of Previous US-planted Government


The Case of US

As already established the real objective of US in militarily occupying Afghanistan and ruling it through its planted governments was to use the country’s geographic location to dominate neighbouring China, Pakistan, Iran, Central Asian Republics (CARs), and Russia. During 20 years of its occupation of the country, intelligence agencies of US (CIA), India (RAW), Israel (Mossad), and UK (MI6) had joined hands in using the terrorist groups to launch terrorist attacks to keep the region under pressure of destabilisation Pakistan remained their prime target for those attacks and destabilising efforts.

However, after suffering humiliating defeat against Afghanistan Taliban and its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan US is left with no spine to have even the faintest idea of any further military action in the country. Besides that, US’ sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan without consulting its NATO allies who had placed their forces/elements in partnership with US, led the European Union (EU) to the idea of creating EU’s own military force without US. As a result, Ms. Ursula Von der Leyen, European Commission President and former Defence Minister of Germany, in her Annual State of Union speech in the European Parliament stressed (italics added)The EU must learn the lessons of the abrupt end of the USled mission in Afghanistan and acquire the “political will” to build up its own military force to deploy to future crises. (5) US has thus also lost the previously guaranteed support of its strong-armpartner NATO (mostly comprising EU member countries).


As evident from media reports, under these circumstances, now US’ residualobjective is to coerce Afghanistan Taliban government to not allow increase of China’s economic influence in the country (particularly the proposed inclusion of Afghanistan in ChinaPakistan Economic Corridor CPEC), and of Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

In that context US’ stance now is to use nonmilitary means, i.e. economic strangulation and terrorist and other destabilising acts, to coerce Afghanistan Taliban government to not allow increase of China’s economic influence in the country (particularly the proposed inclusion of Afghanistan in ChinaPakistan Economic Corridor CPEC), and of Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

For that purpose: (a) US is applying economic strangulation of the already povertystricken country by freezing Afghanistan’s 9.5 bn USD assets on the absurd pretext that first the Afghanistan Taliban form an inclusive government and grant women rights, etc whereas Afghanistan Taliban government has already included members of Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara communities in their governmental setup, and Afghan women have already been given the right of education and jobs etc within the bonds of Islamic culture; and (b) recent deadly terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan  (particularly in areas where Chinese teams are working in CPEC related projects) are clear indications of the terrorist/destabilisation actions of CIA, RAW, Mossad, MI6 combination.

However, US also wants to still keep its finger in the pieof the evolving Afghanistan situation, so that it may still have a diplomatic space in that country should its efforts to coerce Afghanistan Taliban government ultimately fail. For that purpose US has appointed Qatar’s embassy in Kabul to look after US’ diplomatic affairs (6). And now US is also sending its Special Representative for Afghanistan to Doha for two weeks meeting with leaders of Afghanistan Taliban. About this meeting US State Department spokesperson has clarified that the discussion in the meeting will include counter terrorism, safe passage out of Afghanistan for US citizen and their previous Afghan associates, humanitarian assistance, and economic  situation of Afghanistan (7).         


The Case of India

Factually, right from its inception India’s Afghanistan policy suffered from serious flaws; hence India’s current stance relating to Afghanistan too is ambiguous and not much promising to let India succeed in obtaining its desired diplomatic space in the changedAfghanistan. That fact is evident from latest opinion articles of three of the credible Indian professionals and writers: (a) article of Arvind Gupta, Director of Indian Think Tank Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi; (b) article of MK Bhadrakumar, India’s career diplomat and former ambassador; and (c) Saeed Naqvi, Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation New Delhi, India.  

Some extracts of these articles are as follows (italics added).

Arvind Gupta’s article: Though India broadly supported US in Afghanistan since 2001, the main objective of the two in Afghanistan differed – “For the US, eliminating the Al Qaeda threat was the raison d’être for its 20 yearlong war in Afghanistan. For India, Pakistan’s relentless support for the Taliban and the Indiaspecific terror groups who fought alongside the Taliban were the main worry. ——- Doha peace process was highly flawed. It provided legitimacy to the Taliban at the expense of the elected government of President Ghani in Kabul. India was skeptical of the Doha process but went along with it because not just the US, but also other nations like Russia, Iran and China, had also started to indulge the Taliban for their own reasons. ——–  While Delhi retained its scepticism about the Taliban and the Doha peace process, it reluctantly began

to engage with them for fear of being left out of in the cold. (8)

M K Bhadrakumar’s article: The collapse of the Afghan policies has been most unexpected for the Indian establishment. The networking with a clutch of individuals in Kabul inevitably led to tunnel vision. ———— Fundamentally, the geopolitics of Afghanistan is that the US is desperate to have local partners, since it is poorly supported by nominal Asian or European allies and senses that the confluence of Chinese and Russian regional influence is poised to grow and the surge of Iran is a new reality. India made an awful mistakes to join yet another US-led ‘bloc’ in West Asia at this juncture — a recipe for further marginalisation. ——- About the 10th NovemberSecurity Dialoguemeeting held by India in Delhi to wean away the current Taliban inclinationof Russia, Iran and Central Asian Republics (CARs), he mentioned Even those regional states who participated in the Delhi meet remain unsure about India’s Afghan policies. ——– India just doesn’t have the standing today to rally the region, having forfeited its strategic autonomy. Its motivations are ambiguous. (9)

Saeed Naqvi’s article: We were too deeply embedded with president Ashraf Ghani’s establishment, particularly former spy chief, and Tajik leader Amrallah Saleh. And now reports suggest, the US may be proceeding towards a de facto recognition of the Taliban, something Russia and countries around Afghanistan have been suggesting with one major proviso: the Taliban must include all ethnic groups in the government. (10)


It is thus evident that, at least so far, India is not in a position to come up with any workablestance to regain its desired diplomatic space in Afghanistan, which has been abandoned by India’s sole supporter, i.e. US which itself is requesting Pakistan to help in getting some sort of diplomatic relief from Afghanistan Taliban government.


Stances of Global and Regional Powers supporting Afghanistan Taliban Government


Most of the global and regional powers, including Pakistan, China, Turkey, Russia, Iran, as also regional countries including CARs and UAE, are supporting Afghanistan Taliban government in Afghanistan with a view to help in stabilising the country.

Factually, realising the ultimate failure of US military occupation, Pakistan, China and Russia had started diplomatic contacts with Afghanistan Taliban even before their ultimate victory. Besides that, unlike US and its allies including India, most of the global and regional powers and countries also had not close their embassies in Kabul when Afghanistan Taliban took over the government.

The Case of Pakistan

After 15th August establishment of Afghanistan Taliban government, Pakistan took the lead in providing humanitarian aid to the poverty stricken Afghanistan. It was also the first country to arrange safe passage of WHO’s food and medicine aid supplies to Afghanistan.

Pakistan government also held various meetings with Taliban leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help their government in the international arena. In that context, Pakistan also arranged and hosted the ‘Troika Plus’ meeting in Islamabad which was participated by special envoys of China, Russia, and US. Since US had declined to participate a similar meeting in Russia earlier, “Experts said US participation somehow represents a partial shift in US attitude. In that meeting the participants discussed issues like the humanitarian crisis and the future path of the wartorn country”. “According to media reports, during Wednesday’s meeting, Pakistan called on the US to free Afghanistan’s $9 billion in assets frozen by the US, and allow Taliban to use the money to avert a humanitarian crisis. (11) About this Troika Plus meeting the French-based pan-European television news network Euronews has also highlighted, The socalled Troika Plus group pledged on Thursday to try to ease severe pressure on Afghanistan’s banking system as it warned of possible economic collapse and a humanitarian disaster that could fuel a new refugee crisis. ——– Restrictions on the banking system put in place by international governments since the Taliban took over have deepened the pain for Afghans, prompting growing calls for the freeze on the reserves to be lifted. ——- The troika said it acknowledged concerns about the serious liquidity challenges and committed to continue focusing on measures to ease access to legitimate banking services.——-Pakistan has called on governments, including the United States, to allow development assistance to flow into Afghanistan to prevent collapse. ——- Pakistan has also discussed the idea of Afghanistan joining CPEC, its multi-billion dollar infrastructure project with China, which comes under the banner of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). (12)

Besides that Pakistan government has again recently announced assistance to Afghanistan with immediate shipment of inkind  humanitarian assistance worth 5 billion Pakistani rupees [roughly $28.4m], which will comprise food commodities including 50,000 [metric tonnes] of wheat, emergency medical supplies, winter shelters and other supplies”; toalso reduce tariffs and sales tax on certain Afghan exports to Pakistan”; and to allow 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat offered by India as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan to go through Pakistan as soon as modalities are finalised with the Indian side. (13)


The Case of China

China has also been active in assisting the Afghanistan Taliban government. In that context recently (September) China has pledged 200 million yuan ($31m, £22m) worth of aid to Afghanistan, including food supplies and coronavirus vaccines. The aid comes as Beijing said it was ready to maintain communication with the Taliban government. It added that the establishment of the new interim government was a “necessary step to restore order” in Afghanistan. ——— Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the aid measures for Afghanistan at a meeting on Wednesday, with counterparts from several of Afghanistan’s neighbours Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. He called on these countries to cooperate in helping Afghanistan, adding that China would also provide 3 million vaccine doses to the country. (14)


The Case of Russia

As mentioned earlier, Russia too “had worked for years to establish contacts with the Taliban, even though it designated the group a terror organization in 2003 ——- the Russian Foreign Ministry has responded to questions about the apparent contradiction by saying its exchanges with the Taliban are essential for helping stabilize Afghanistan. ——– Unlike many other countries, Russia hasn’t evacuated its embassy in Kabul and its ambassador has maintained regular contacts with the Taliban since they took over the Afghan capital of Kabul in August.——- In October Russia held a meeting of top diplomats from Russia, China and Pakistan. The US, which is also part of that “troika plus” format, didn’t attend the meeting. —– After that meeting Russia hosted talks on Afghanistan on Wednesday involving senior representatives of the Taliban and neighboring nations, a round of diplomacy that underlined Moscow’s clout in Central Asia. Thos talks were opened by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (15) Russia’s diplomatic engagementwith and for Afghanistan Taliban government is continuing.


The Case of Turkey and Other Countries

Turkey has been helping the Afghanistan Taliban government in many aspects, and is still doing so. Many other countries too have joined in support of Afghanistan Taliban government; UAE has reopened it embassy in Kabul.


Stance of EU


As already known, most of EU countries had sided with US’ stance of closing its embassy in Kabul, freezing Afghanistan’s assets, and retaining the sanctions against Afghanistan Taliban, etc.

However, since October certain signs did emerge indicating the possibility that, regardless of US, the EU may commence providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan to avoid the lurking severe povertydriven human catastrophe in that country; which is bound to cause major refugee exodus not only to neighbouring countries, but also reaching many European countries.

Out of the many media reports about this aspects, devex the Washington, USbased social enterprise and media platform for the global development community had provided fair amount of insidedetails.

Some extracts of devex’s 8th October report are worth noting (italics added) The European Commission is asking European Union states to endorse the resumption of limited development work in Afghanistan, on the condition that it be carried out by NGOs and international organizations, not via the Taliban. ——EU development ministers will meet Monday for an informal videoconference to discuss the commission proposal, which was seen by Devex. Titled “Towards a EU approach in support of the Afghan People,” the document proposes a progressive way to restart funding initiatives that go beyond purely humanitarian work. —— In the short term, the latest commission proposal argues, “Development projects and international trust funds that were ongoing before 15 August 2021 should be allowed to resume (after reorientation of activities, where needed) if the following criteria are met:

  • implemented by NGOs or international organisations;
    • benefitting directly the population, local CSOs [civil society organizations] and human rights’ defenders;
    • addressing basic needs of the population, livelihoods, displacement dynamics, human rights including women’s rights, and/or civil society empowerment; and
    • remaining relevant and operationally feasible in the new context.(16)

And, by 12th October news appeared in world media about EU’s pledge; The EU pledged one billion euros in aid for Afghanistan on Tuesday “to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse”, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. The Afghan people “should not pay the price of the Taliban’s actions”, she added. (17)

However, even after a passage of over a month, there are still no signs at all of any action for implementing that EU pledge made officially by no less an authority than the President of European Commission!   

And now, the latest (26th November) report of devex has published the news that, Divisions are emerging on the European Union’s aid strategy in Afghanistan, as the humanitarian and development departments tussle over when and how to help the population of 40 million people. Details of those differences within EU are explained in that lengthy report. (18)

Then again, even last week’s meeting between senior officials of EU and Afghanistan Taliban government, held in Doha just prior to the two weeks scheduled meeting between US and Afghanistan Taliban governments, was fruitless. For that meeting the EU had sent its delegation led by EU special envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson, with officials from the European External Action Service (EEAS) and European Commission’s service handling humanitarian aid, and international partnership, and migration. And Afghanistan Taliban government delegation was led by the interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi, accompanied by the interim Ministers for education and health, acting Central Bank Governor, and officials from the foreign, finance, and interior ministries, and the intelligence directorate.

However EU’s delegation, like US, only consumed the discussion on the same absurd pretext that first the Afghanistan Taliban form an inclusive government and grant women rights, etc (19) whereas Afghanistan Taliban government has already included members of Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara communities in their governmental setup, and Afghan women have already been given the right of education and jobs etc within the bonds of Islamic culture.

The harsh reality therefore is that now EU is not prepared to honour its commitment made last month by President of European Commission. Obviously, that almost complete reversal of EU’s pronounced decision cannot be attributed to any confusion or malfunctioning in the functioning mechanism of such an established organisation like EU. The most probable reason for it appears to be the spanner in the worksthrown in by US and its antiTaliban and antiChina allies who want to economically choke the Afghanistan Taliban government to the extent of its collapse, or at least to compel it to accept political subjugation to US.

However, there are certain indications too, which reflect the possibility that at least some EU member countries may still come out to provide humanitarian and financial assistance directly to the people of Afghanistan of course  in consultation with Afghanistan Taliban government. In that context Afghanistan’s largest online news service KHAMA Press News Agency reported on 19th November that (italics added):

Germany’s government along with Dutch government have taken the lead when Germany sent their highlevel diplomats to Afghanistan for the first time after the Taliban takeover and met with the Taliban’s Deputy Prime Minister and acting foreign minister. The German Foreign Minister in a statement said the country’s special representative for Afghanistan, Jasper Wieck, and ambassadordesignate Markus Potzel met on November 18 with highranking officials from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The delegation was accompanied by a Dutch special representative for Afghanistan Emiel de Bont. Germany’s Foreign Minister in the statement said that both sides acknowledged that continued operational contacts on issues where practical cooperation is both necessary and possible, in particular, to address the humanitarian plight of the Afghan people. Germany pledged to be providing the people of Afghanistan with humanitarian aid but added not to help the defacto authorities in Kabul directly. Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Motaqi met with the European delegation and acknowledged that the money is better to be sent to teachers and doctors’ accounts directly to prevent delay. (19)

There is therefore the hope that some of the EU member countries may as well establish some sort of ‘de facto’ if not ‘de jure’ rapprochement with Afghanistan Taliban government now, with the purpose of alleviating the economic distress of Afghan people; and subsequently, for developing mutually beneficial investment/ economic interaction with Afghanistan which is rich with its untapped mineral resources worth USD 1 trillion. In any case, humanitarian and financial help of such EU member countries will help Afghanistan Taliban government to an extent in coping with Afghanistan’s severe economic ordeal caused by US supported by its allies by freezing Afghanistan’s financial assets and retaining the sanctions.


Salient Deductive Inferences


There are comparatively much higher chances that US and EU will continue with their off and on discussions with Afghanistan Taliban government only for the purpose of putting up the deceptive façade of being interested in trying for a solution of the current economic and humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan. In reality, however, US and its antiTaliban and antChina allies will continue with keeping Afghanistan’s assets frozen and sanctions retained with the hope that as the now commencing winters become severe the misery of povertystricken and foodstarved Afghan masses will multiply manifolds, rendering that situation impossible for handling by the financiallystrapped Afghanistan Taliban government;  thereby resulting in the collapse of their government, or compelling them to politically submit to the US’ dictates.

On the other hand, the current volume of the humanitarian aid to Afghanistan by the neighbouring Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Turkmenistan, etc are also bound to increase manifolds as the humanitarian sufferings further increase in Afghanistan. That will be so because of: (a) historical bonding of many of these countries with Afghanistan, (b) danger of destabilisation of Afghanistan due to breakup of law and order situation in that country, and (c) danger of refugee exodus from Afghanistan to neighbouring countries.

That increased volume of humanitarian/economic aid by these neighbouring countries/global powers (China and Russia) to Afghanistan, when augmented by similar aid from European powers/countries like Germany/Netherlands (Dutch), etc, is most likely to further strengthen the wellknown historically ingrained strategic resilience and survival ability of Afghans; thereby enabling Afghans and their Afghanistan Taliban government to successfully brave outcurrent economic strangulation and the problems related to the approaching severe winters.

In all eventuality therefore people and Taliban government of Afghanistan (now Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) will not only survive the current serious challenges, but by the spring season of coming year (2022) Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan should have its diplomatic stature firmly established in the international arena, and will be able to gradually commence the longawaited progress towards peace and prosperity.  




(2). World Bank Report World Bank in Afghanistan, of 8 October 2021.


(4). Malaysian News Website The Star (recognised in 2014 as one of the best in Asia)

(5). Report by The Guardian of 15 September 2021.



(8). Moscowbased Think Tank Valdai Discussion Club

(9). India’s Newspaper The Tribune

(10). Bangla Desh Newspaper New Age

(11). Global Time report of 11th November 2021

(12). Euronews report of 12th November 2021

(13). Aljazeera report of 23rd November 2021

(14). BBC report of 9th September 2021         

(15). US’ AP News report of 20th October.   

(16). devex report of 8th October 2021              

(17). Parisbased French state owned international new television network

(18). devex report of 26th November 2021     

(19). Afghanistan’s KHAMA Press News Service      



Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman

Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan is a retired officer of Pakistan Army; a graduate of Command & Staff College and a post-graduate of National Defence College; with Command, General Staff, and rich battlefields experience of war; had to retire due to heart ailment; a post-retirement PhD from University of Peshawar, with the thesis relating to Afghanistan; a published free-lance research/analyst; chose to be a post-retirement teacher; lectured in Social Sciences in the universities of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi for about 11 years; and now house-bound due to health reason, retaining his passion for research/analysis.

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