Will Afghanistan’s highly effective neighbours have interaction the Taliban?

The withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan is inevitably leaving a political vacuum in South and Central Asia. The query that many are asking is who will step in to fill it. Afghanistan’s quick neighbours – Pakistan, Iran and China – all have particular pursuits within the nation that they’re prone to pursue with renewed vigour.

None is prone to play the identical important position the US did in shaping the way forward for the nation however all three need to see a secure authorities in Kabul and safety established throughout the nation in view of their very own nationwide safety pursuits.

The Taliban, for its half, is seeking to set up constructive relations with its neighbours to earn worldwide legitimacy and entice funding for a lot wanted financial growth. So what does this imply for relations with Pakistan, China and Iran?


Pakistan, which shares a 2,670km-long (1,659-mile) border with Afghanistan, has suffered rather a lot throughout the previous 4 a long time of turmoil. It has needed to pay a heavy worth for performing as a launching pad for Washington’s and its allies’ “Afghan jihad” on the us after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The 9/11 assaults and the next “war on terror” solely worsened the safety scenario in Pakistan.

The instability has enabled armed teams alongside the Pakistan-Afghan border to flourish. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban) and Baloch insurgents have been attacking targets in Pakistan for years, killing greater than 83,000 and inflicted billions of {dollars} price of losses on the Pakistani financial system. Islamabad has usually alleged that violent assaults on Pakistan have been deliberate and executed from Afghan soil with the lively assist of Indian intelligence. At the identical time, Pakistani safety companies have been accused of backing the Afghan Taliban, particularly the Haqqani community.

In this context, the Taliban takeover of Kabul and the withdrawal of US forces had been perceived as a constructive growth by coverage and army circles in Islamabad. Their angle has been: “We are happy because with the Taliban in power, our western borders will be secured as archrival India will be out of the game.”

This optimism a couple of pleasant authorities in Kabul can be strengthened by the truth that the Taliban by no means retaliated with violence for Pakistan offering assist for the US-led army operation which dislodged them from energy in 2001 or for handing over a few of its members to western forces. Some have even speculated a couple of outstanding position that Islamabad might play in Kabul, particularly after information of a September four go to to the Afghan capital by Pakistani intelligence chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed emerged.

In the worldwide enviornment, Islamabad has additionally been actively campaigning for worldwide engagement with the Taliban. In his video messages to the UN General Assembly aired on September 24, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the world neighborhood to assist the Taliban authorities and assist the nation with much-needed humanitarian assist.

However, Pakistan might not get pleasure from an unrivalled authority over the Taliban, as some have speculated. Well-placed sources divulged to the creator that in an August 16 National Security Council assembly in Islamabad, the army commanders clarified to the parliamentarians that the Taliban might not hearken to Pakistan, because it used to previously. That is why, Islamabad can be cautious and never going for a solo flight to shortly recognise the Taliban authorities, because it did within the 1990s.

Although it nonetheless has not formally recognised the federal government in Kabul, Pakistan has excessive hopes for engagement with it on the financial entrance. During former President Ashraf Ghani’s time in workplace, the circulate of imported items via Pakistani ports to landlocked Afghanistan dropped by 80 %, as Kabul began favouring Iranian ports, funded by India. Bilateral commerce additionally declined from $2.8bn in 2011 to $1.8bn. Islamabad want to see using Pakistani ports for Afghan imports restored and bilateral commerce boosted.

Pakistan additionally hopes that elevated safety beneath the Taliban would permit it to accentuate its commerce with Central Asia, the place there may be potential for important development. It is eyeing the completion of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which might ship pure fuel from Turkmenistan to the three South Asian nations. The development of the pipeline stalled lately, because the Afghan authorities was unable to supply safety for the challenge works on Afghan territory.

Moving ahead, Pakistan can anticipate a pleasant authorities in Kabul provided that it develops a relationship of mutual belief and respect with the Afghans.


The April announcement of US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan elevated concern in China about border safety within the Wakhan Corridor, the place it shares a 92km (57 miles) border strip with Afghanistan, but additionally inspired the Chinese authorities to approach the Taliban management for preliminary talks.

Beijing fears a chaotic Afghanistan might trigger a spillover of violence to Xinjiang province and damage its strategic regional funding within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Taliban takeover has opened a strategic door for China into Afghanistan that would turn into laden with dangers.

On July 28, Mullah Ghani Baradar and a nine-member Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin, which resulted within the Taliban giving assurances that it’ll not permit Afghan soil for use for assaults towards China in alternate for Chinese financial assist and funding for the reconstruction of the war-ravaged nation.

This assembly was a turning level for the Taliban, as Mullah Baradar was in a position to earn the backing of a superpower that would play a serious position within the reconstruction and growth of Afghanistan. In an August 16 assertion on the Taliban takeover of Kabul, Chinese overseas ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stated China is “ready” to develop additional relations with Afghanistan.

And China made good on its promise. While different powers shunned the Taliban authorities introduced in early September, China responded to its requires humanitarian assist and pledged $31m price of help. On September 23, Yi criticised the US for freezing Afghan belongings throughout a digital convention of G20 overseas ministers. Less than every week later, the primary batch of Chinese assist landed at Kabul airport.

China can be eyeing to money in on the untapped mineral sources in Afghanistan, that are estimated to have a worth of $1 to $three trillion. Apart from uncommon earth parts, the nation additionally has huge reserves of gold, platinum, silver, copper, iron, chromite, lithium, uranium, and aluminium in addition to treasured stones. The Taliban seems to be keen to present entry to those sources and use the income to solidify its rule.

However, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan additionally worries China. If the Taliban authorities fails to regulate the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) or different violent teams on Afghan territory, this might destabilise Xinjiang province. Furthermore, an unstable Afghanistan might harbour different militant teams that would undermine or sabotage China’s BRI initiatives within the area. Insecurity within the nation would additionally forestall any Chinese mining or different financial initiatives from kicking off.

Other regional and international gamers are additionally eyeing Afghan sources they usually may find yourself utilizing native militant teams or warlords to safe their pursuits. This might undermine Chinese financial pursuits in Afghanistan and the area.

So Beijing will possible approach relations with the Taliban authorities with warning and take its time in making investments within the nation.


Iran, which shares a 921km (572-mile) border with Afghanistan, has additionally suffered from the instability ravaging its neighbour for many years. In the 1990s, Tehran was backing the Northern Alliance of anti-Taliban forces and didn’t recognise Taliban rule in Kabul.

Worried by the huge US army presence within the area after 2001, Iran established ties with the group and tried to undermine US pursuits by covertly supporting it.

Overall, the Iranians had been happy with the US withdrawal, which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi termed a army “failure” in an August 16 assertion. But his authorities has additionally been anxious about safety and political developments within the nation ever since. In early September, it reacted sharply to the Taliban offensive towards the opposition stronghold in Panjshir valley.

Tehran additionally criticised the Taliban for not together with minorities within the cupboard it introduced. One of its principal considerations in Afghanistan is safeguarding the Hazara Shia neighborhood, which confronted extreme persecution over the last Taliban rule.

Apart from political pursuits, Iran additionally appears to be like to Afghanistan for financial alternatives. US sanctions severely damage Iranian international commerce, however Afghanistan beneath the Taliban wouldn’t shun financial engagement with it to please the US.

Iran will try to take care of its entry to the Afghan market, which lately has been flooded with Iranian items. In 2018, Iran grew to become Afghanistan’s greatest commerce associate, with its exports reaching nearly $2bn, along with a big quantity of Afghan imports passing via Iranian ports.

While sustaining excessive commerce volumes, Iran can even search to stem the circulate of narcotics via its porous border with Afghanistan. Iran is a serious marketplace for Afghan opium and an essential hall for delivery narcotics to Europe and the Persian Gulf. The Taliban has been repeatedly accused of benefitting from the drug commerce and inspiring it. Therefore, establishing efficient mechanisms with the Taliban authorities to resolve the narcotics drawback can be a serious problem for Iran.

Another contentious challenge between Kabul and Tehran are militants threatening Iranian safety. Iran’s border areas of Khorasan and Sistan-Baluchistan have seen plenty of terrorist assaults lately blamed on extremist teams working alongside the Afghan-Iranian and Pakistani-Iranian borders. The Taliban has given assurances that it’ll not permit armed teams on Afghan soil to threaten different international locations, however Iran will anticipate extra than simply phrases.

The greater than two million Afghan refugees on Iranian territory additionally fear Tehran. With its personal financial system in tatters and socioeconomic tensions inside Iranian society rising, the Iranian authorities is hardly ready to supply for them or welcome extra newcomers. That is why Iran desires to see stability in Afghanistan that might permit a few of these refugees to return.

Thus, Afghanistan’s neighbours – Pakistan, China and Iran – all have a vested curiosity in a secure authorities in Kabul that may safe Afghan borders and financial actions. They will possible cooperate with one another, in addition to Russia, to see that via. In this manner, the Taliban authorities can be beneath the affect of an rising anti-US axis, which can search to remove US affect within the area and decide its new safety infrastructure.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.