January 11, 2022

Ten Questions For A Post-NATO Afghanistan

1. What happens to the U.S. air bases?

It is hard to believe that Washington just packed up and left Afghanistan without first making a deal with the Taliban that the bases it built would remain intact and accessible to NATO forces should the need arise in the future.

Immediately after the rushed exit a multitude of excuses were given to rationalize any potential U.S.-Taliban cooperation. The main one that's been talked up in the media is the targeting of ISIS remnants and its affiliates, but these bases weren't built to solely monitor the movements of terrorists. 

Regardless of why or when, the question is will the Taliban invite U.S. forces to help maintain and operate these bases?

An excerpt from, "How to Exit Afghanistan" By Selig S. Harrison, The Nation, December 22, 2009:

The principal obstacle to a regional neutralization accord is likely to be the Pentagon’s desire to have “permanent access” to its network of Afghan bases near the borders of Russia, China, Iran and Central Asia to facilitate intelligence surveillance as well as any future military operations. Some of the seventy-four US bases in Afghanistan have been developed for counterinsurgency operations and might be expendable.

2. Who rebuilds and funds the Afghan military?

The Afghan military ghosted the NATO regime in its hour of greatest need. They saw the writing on the wall and realized that their blood was not worth the survival of a hollow and clueless political leadership. Any new Afghan military will play second fiddle to the Taliban's core cadres, and they will be not counted on in a future civil war or political crisis. 

An excerpt from, "20 years of US military aid to Afghanistan" By Dr. Nan Tian, sipri, September 22, 2021:

The affordability of the Afghan military over the past two decades—irrespective of its effectiveness—was dependent on US support. With the end of US military aid, what will happen to the Afghan military as an institution and how will it be funded? China, Russia and Turkey are a few countries that observers mention as being prepared to replace the void left by the USA and its allies.

3. Will Pakistan deploy the Taliban against its own insurgents and internal political enemies?

Now that the Taliban have driven out NATO they have free time on their hands. Chasing down and butchering collaborators can only go on for so long. Their Pakistani masters have other uses for their talents. 

The Taliban and Pakistan have officially promised not to use Afghan territory as a base of terrorism against nearby countries but they didn't say anything about not engaging ethnic rebels in Pakistan or transferring fighters to disputed territories like Kashmir.

An excerpt from, "Pakistan’s Baluch insurgency" By Selig S. Harrison, Le Monde, October 2006:

The big difference between earlier phases of the Baluch struggle and the present one is that Islamabad has so far not been able to play off feuding tribes against each other. Equally importantly, it faces a unified nationalist movement under younger leadership drawn not only from tribal leaders but also from an emergent, literate Baluch middle class that did not exist three decades ago. Another difference is that the Baluch have a better armed, more disciplined fighting force in the BLA. Baluch leaders say that rich compatriots and sympathisers in the Persian Gulf provide money needed to buy weapons in the flourishing black market along the Afghan frontier.

4. Will the Taliban remain a lackey of Pakistan or will it pursue its own ambitions?

The Taliban and Pakistan don't share the same view about where Afghanistan's border ends. The Pashtuns on both sides of the border want to unite and cancel the Durand Line that was imposed by the British. 

Despite its strong attachment to Pakistan, the Taliban can gain popular support by standing firm on this sensitive issue and exercise Afghanistan's territorial rights. 

An excerpt from, "Won’t allow fencing along Durand Line: Taliban" Tribune India, January 6, 2022:
Afghanistan's Taliban regime has said it will not allow fencing by Pakistan in any form along the Durand Line, issuing a stern warning to Islamabad amid escalating tensions between the neighbouring countries on the contentious issue of border fencing, a media report said.
5. Will Iran and India help stabilize the Taliban regime or support a new insurgency? 

So far, India and Iran have not spoiled the Taliban’s victory. India and Iran have agreed to coordinate a shipment of medical supplies and food to Afghanistan to help alleviate its hunger crisis. Iran has also hosted high level talks between the Taliban and anti-Taliban leaders.

An excerpt from, "Iran offers to assist India in food aid to Afghanistan" By Arvin Donley, World Grain, January 10, 2022:

Iran has offered to transfer wheat from India to war-torn Afghanistan, the Economic Times reported on Jan. 9.

The offer comes as talks between India and Pakistan have failed to reach an agreement in which Pakistan would allow the transfer of Indian wheat through its country to Afghanistan.

An excerpt from, "In Iran, Taliban hold parleys with Resistance Front leaders" Tribune India, January 11, 2022:

Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers held talks over the weekend with senior leaders of an anti-Taliban alliance, the Taliban said on Monday.

The meeting, held in Tehran, was the first of its kind, underscoring Taliban efforts to bring their former opponents into the fold.

6. Will China prioritize Afghanistan and invest in infrastructure projects or will it continue to maintain its current passive and minimalistic approach to the country?

An excerpt from, "China in Afghanistan: How Beijing Engages the Taliban" By Mercy A. Kuo, The Diplomat, December 25, 2021:

The untapped resources in Afghanistan are attractive to China, which faces growing domestic demands for energy and primary commodities. However, Beijing is aware that mining ventures into Afghanistan would be a long shot, requiring many pieces to be put in place first, such as security guarantees and proper infrastructure.

7. Will the Taliban soften its adherence to its hardline religious ideology and evolve its views to accommodate the moderate and pluralistic culture of Afghanistan?

Despite Pakistan’s best efforts to paint the Taliban as purely an Afghan entity, the fact is that it is a child of Pakistan's Islamic seminaries, which are hybrids of Saudi-backed Wahhabi teachings and the India-based Deobandi tradition. The Taliban is a product of cross breeding of Saudi Arabian and Indian Islamic movements which gained prominence in their respective homelands during the colonial age. 

Afghanistan has historically been a multi-ethnic and multi-faith land. It has embraced a cross-section of religious perspectives and worldviews. The Taliban are doing themselves no favour by stamping out the rich cultural traditions of the lands they now govern. Their ultimate success will depend on their political and ideological flexibility.

8. How will Japan navigate a Taliban-led Afghanistan where foreign aid has become an even more critical factor than before?

Japan has been a generous donor to Afghanistan for the last two decades, being the second biggest after the U.S. It has taken a leadership role internationally when it comes to organizing financial assistance to the Afghan government. Since the Taliban’s takeover it has sent nearly $160 million dollars to international authorities working in Afghanistan. 


In January 2002, Japan hosted the Tokyo Conference on which international donors pledged aid to rebuild Afghanistan. The Japanese embassy reopened in Kabul and has since engaged in various types of assistance to Afghanistan. As of 2012, Japan is the second largest donor to Afghanistan after the United States.

An excerpt from, "Japan to offer $100 mil. aid to Afghanistan" NHK World-Japan, December 21, 2021:

This is Japan's second provision of assistance to Afghanistan since the Taliban's takeover, following the emergency grant aid of about 58 million dollars announced in October.

Government officials say Japan will continue to support the Afghan people, and actively work to bring stability to the country and the surrounding region.

9. Will Washington continue to starve the Afghan nation to prove a point?

If Washington's aim with its sanctions is to make the Afghan people turn on their new rulers then it will back fire, as it has elsewhere in the region. If people are starving they don't have the energy to rebel. But if their aim is to squeeze the Taliban authorities into making political concessions then it might eventually work, but at what cost? 

Millions of Afghans could die before the Taliban decides to change its mind about various policies. Unlike Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, Afghanistan cannot support itself and ride out U.S. sanctions. It is completely dependent on foreign aid and the international banking system for its continued survival.

An excerpt from, "The Silence — or Worse — of Human Rights Hawks on U.S. Sanctions Against Afghanistan" By Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept, January 9, 2022:

U.S. sanctions policy is directly to blame, pushing Afghans over the edge as they already struggle to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and the political upheaval created by the collapse of the central government. As Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote this December, after returning from a trip to Afghanistan on behalf of the WHO, “I can clearly state that if the United States and other Western governments do not change their Afghanistan sanction policies, more Afghans will die from sanctions than at the hands of the Taliban.”

10. How will Turkey expand its influence in Afghanistan and throughout Central Asia? 

After the collapse of the NATO-backed government, Turkey welcomed the new Taliban regime with hopeful optimism. It has devised a plan alongside Qatar to run Afghanistan's airports

Turkey has economic and security interests in Afghanistan. Both countries also share a long and friendly history. After Afghanistan achieved its independence in 1919, Turkey "became the first diplomatic representation to be inaugurated in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul" (Source).

But what are Turkey's goals in the new Afghanistan and will it play a positive role? Recent history suggests it will pursue its narrow economic interests and loot the country, as it has in the territories it controls in northern Syria.

An excerpt from, "Spotlight on nexus between Turkish radicals, Afghanistan-Pakistan ultras" By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, The Economic Times, January 10, 2022:

Turkey has been an economic player and investor in Central Asia, including in Kazakhstan, for decades and radicals from Turkey may have encroached into the landlocked region, Eurasian security agencies suspect. Role of these radicals in the current crisis in Kazakhstan and their links with extremists and radicals from Afghanistan and Pakistan region who allegedly played role in terror attacks are being probed by the security establishments, ET has learnt.

. . .

ET reported on Sunday that Pakistani Tablighi Jamaat members, in collaboration with radicals trained in Afghanistan, fuelled unrest and launched terror attacks in the Central Asia’s biggest country, which unlike three of its Central Asian neighbours, did not face any uprising so far since gaining independence in 1991. The attacks in Kazakhstan are being analysed by Russians and other countries in the region in the context of the return of the Taliban in Kabul.

An excerpt from, "Turbulence, the Taliban, and Turkey’s role in Afghanistan’s future" By Iain Macgillivray, The Interpreter, September 6, 2021: 

Turkey finds itself with fewer allies and friends. Unilateral actions in Syria, Libya, and Azerbaijan highlight a foreign policy direction that is increasingly reactionary and opportunist. Turkey’s pursuit of a stabilising and and mediating role in Afghanistan appears to be another pipe dream – the risks by far out way the benefits.