Vietnam yesterday, Afghanistan today, Taiwan, Ukraine and Israel tomorrow?

Vietnam yesterday, Afghanistan today, Taiwan, Ukraine and Israel tomorrow?

Now everywhere heated discussions and debates about Afghanistan. The last 10 years nearly nobody was interested in the Afghan war, which the Western goverments didn´t call as such, and now loud screams and big surprise. Sometimes quite stupid discussions. It was clear that after the announced withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban would advance and also conquer Kabul. Allegedly, a different approach could have achieved a different result. The whole thing might have been delayed a little, but could not have been prevented. Now the assessment of the timing by the intelligence services and the government is criticized . Secondary. Rather, the question is how the fundamental misjudgment came about that one could have won this war, especially that one thought that with a lot of money and technology one could build the will of Afghan politicians and their military to fight. The Afghan army is a paper tiger. And comparable to the KMT army in the fight against Mao, which also deserted en masse, or the collapse of the South Vietnamese army. 5 years ago, I was amazed when a so called Afghanistan expert announced that after the death of Mullah Omar, the Taliban had now become fragmented, decentralized, more heterogeneous and much less powerful and the restructuring and training of the Afghan army made great progress. The Afghanistan Papers revealed that misjudgement. The Afghanistan Papers are a set of assessments of the US war in Afghanistan prepared by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and published by The Washington Post in 2019 following a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents revealed that high-ranking officials generally held the opinion that the war was unwinnable while keeping this view from the public. Due to the difficulty of creating objective metrics to demonstrate success, information was manipulated for the duration of the conflict. NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro comparing the documents with the Pentagon Papers, noted the revelation of, „explicit and sustained efforts by the US government to deliberately mislead the public”.

A German sinologist and Orientalist commented:

“From the beginning (2001) it was clear that one day things would turn out like this. I often talked about it with my father, who was very knowledgeable about the region and, ten years ago, sneered at the fact that people always talked about „progress“ when in truth there was none. The military was there protecting themselves and the satraps. It had been bobbing around for years, with an occasional report that the women in Kabul are now doing much better (which some of them probably even did). The whole time you lied to yourself because the Germans (and other Europeans probably too) believe too much in their own propaganda: We are the representatives of a good cause, and actually everyone else just wants to know our “values” some don´t know it yet. Then you just have to teach them the right way. But in addition to women’s liberation, people unfortunately have to see real added value for themselves so that they can fight on the side of the West. And I’m afraid that one has deliberately ignored this the whole time, just as Mr. Bütikofer and Mrs. Baerbock (and whatever they are called) are not interested in the economic consequences of their speech either (you can strike a different tone with China, when the federal government does that, and you can also try to find out if you can somehow reorient yourself: But you should always know what you are doing and what you can afford – and whether others do that too; otherwise the German provincial theater). True, better an end with horror than horror without end. The American secret service probably knew a little better that this would be the case, but did not say that to too openly, so that Ms. Merkel is really right when she says that it was not her misjudgment, but that of an abstract group called“ all “ on which one really cannot lay blame.”

The Chinese have better understood the concept of added value, especially under material and economic aspects and especially as materialistic Marxists trained in political economy. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen to what extent the Taliban are now also sophisticated in state arts and interested economically or if  the religious-ideological factor is more dominant. And to what degree the Taliban want a modernization and be part of the New Silkroad, infrastrcuture projects, mining industry, be a  transit country with transit fees as income and maybe interested in oil and gas pipelines as once the US oil company UNOCAL tried to build under the Taliban goverment in the 90s or even the old TAPI project (Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan- India) or maybe now TAPC( Turkemnistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan- China), the Chinese still don´t know exactly yet either, but hope for it. The Chinese hope to convince the Taliban of the advantages of their alleged win-win situation of the BRI, to promise the Taliban economic and geopolitical advantages, and act according to Lenin’s motto: “The capitalists will also supply us the ropes by which we hang them “, will try to economically involve and corrupt the elites, especially since China also have a holistic and comprehensive development project for Afghanistan that the West did not have. But the Taliban are neither capitalists nor Western, they could also perceive the Chinese lifestyle as godless and Western, even if the Chinese claim to be Eastern or Eurasian and how Ummah idea and Taliban values fit to the diversity of civilizations, the great human society for common goods, the Xi Jinping thoughts, Confucianism and Socialism with Chinese characters. It is not for nothing that Beijing has started an intercultural dialogue with the Taliban, probably in the hope of softening the ideological superstructure a little bit for the economic substructure. Especially as China just signedthe China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and a 25 years treaty with Iran and the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan shall become the transit country for it . But it will also be important that not only a few urban centers and their elite develop, as seemed to be the case with the US involvement (villas and shopping malls in Kabul), but also to what extent Afghanistan is economically an opium state and wants to reform its agricultural sector. And how the financial system, Islamic banking (no interest rates) and Yuan or now digital Yuan for crossborder deals will fit together and if this could be harmonized. And the extent to which a possible modernization does not lead to dissatisfaction, conflicts with traditional and religious values, polarization and new internal struggles, especially since there is also the question of whether there is a kind of Taliban Deng or if the Taliban are more interested to remain a dominantly medieval feudalistic agrarian society with strict Sharia laws. Or become some sort of Wahhabist Saudiarabia with economic development, but strict religious laws, but for sure not as advanced as Muhammed Bin Salmann and his Vision 2035 with woman at universities, driving cars and founding start-ups. The Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot had a seat in the UNO during the Cold War supported by China and the West and the question is if the Taliban also wants that and what influence this has on itself and if they wnat it and who supprots it besides China and Russia. At the moment China and Russia make all this dependent on the practical conduct of the Taliban in the hope for an educational , cultivating and moderating effect. Many unknowns, also about the new Taliban leadership.

The hierarchies of the terrorist group are opaque after the Taliban was split up into many small groups. But four men are part of the Taliban leadership. After the withdrawal of the western armed forces, the militant Islamist terror group is on the march through Afghanistan. Within a few days, the Taliban were able to recapture important areas in Afghanistan and there is now a threat of a complete takeover of power. How many people are part of the terror group is still unclear. The UN Security Council estimates that the Taliban have between 55,000 and 85,000 fighters with radical Islamist sentiments.

Taliban leader: Haibatullah Achundsada The current leader of the Taliban is Haibatullah Achundsada. After the death of former Taliban leader Mullah Mansur Akhtar in a US drone attack, a power struggle broke out among the Taliban’s leadership. Achundsada has been at the helm of the terrorist organization since May 2016. Achundsada was a relatively unknown Islamist preacher, so his appointment as leader is seen as a sign that as a leader he should be more of an ideological leader than that of a military commander. Achundsada secures his power through the support of the terror network Al-Qaeda. Its leader, Aiman al-Sawahri, called Achundzada an „emir of the believers“ in 2016. One of his duties within the Taliban was to reunite the fragmented militia.

Abdul Ghani Baradar Another leading and founding member of the Taliban is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. He grew up in Kandahar, which would later become the birthplace of the Taliban. Baradara had acted as a rebel during the Soviet invasion in the late 1970s. In the Afghan civil war, he fought together with the one-eyed mullah Omar, and together with two other fighters, Baradar and Omar founded the Taliban in the early 1990s. After Baradar was arrested in Pakistan in 2010, the US campaigned for his release in 2018. According to Trump’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, the US government at the time asked Pakistan to release Baradar because it had a reputation for „being more open and advocating peace solutions.“ Donald Trump asked Pakistan to release Baradar After his release and transfer to Qatar, Baradar was appointed head of the Taliban’s Politburo and therefore the most important representative in negotiations with the Americans. The Doha Agreement between the Taliban and the USA was signed in early 2020 and heralded the withdrawal of American troops. In return, the Taliban pledged not to allow Afghanistan to become a “safe haven for terrorists” again and to conduct peace negotiations with the Afghan government. The fact that Baradar is now in his current position is also thanks to former US President Donald Trump. After the fall of the Afghan capital Kabul, the flight of President Achraf Ghani and the rise of the Taliban to power, Baradar is currently the favorite for the office of head of state in Afghanistan.

Deputy head of the Taliban: Sirajuddin Hakkani Siradschuddin Hakkani, the son of Jalaluddin Hakkani, a notorious Taliban jihadist, is also part of the Taliban’s leadership. Siradschuddin Hakkani is the deputy head of the Taliban and heads the Hakkani network. This network of militia is known for using suicide bombers and is responsible for some of the largest attacks in Kabul, the murder of several Afghan government officials and the kidnapping of countless western citizens. The Hakkani network should not only demonstrate tactical skills in combat, but also in business deals. It is also suspected that the network leads all Taliban operations in eastern Afghanistan and also has a major influence on the entire management level of the Taliban.

Head of the Military Commission: Mullah Jakub Mullah Jakub is the son of the Taliban founder Omar and has been the head of the Taliban’s influential military commission since 2020. They control the large Taliban network of militia commanders. Mullah Jakub’s exact role in the Taliban, however, is unknown. On the one hand, it is believed that because of his name, he has great influence and impact in the Taliban movement. However, experts suspect that his appointment was only symbolic.

But it remains to be seen ,how the political structure of the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan will be designed, which factions exist, who will be the leaders, which programs they have and how stable the new califate will be.

But there were also  other reasons as well for the failure of the West. Now you have to be careful not to get into a merely backward-looking debate, but also to consider how to act in the future. Biden did the right thing. Better an end with horror than horror without an end. Conversely, the West gains economic resources again, could learn its lessons and can concentrate on other tasks after an initial hangover mood and time of selfrefelction. In addition, the era of relaxed humanitarian never-ending wars should now be over. Hopefully China does not think it can now take advantage of this in Taiwan because the US could react differently and then we would have the big mess.

An op-e d“Afghanistan today, Taiwan tomorrow? in the mouthpiece of the CPC Global Times ” is making arguments in this direction:

“Afghanistan today, Taiwan tomorrow? US treachery scares DPP

US will abandon Taiwan in a crisis given its tarnished credibility: experts

By GT staff reporters Published: Aug 16, 2021 09:38 PM

  With chaotic scenes at Kabul airport of hundreds and thousands of people fleeing after the Taliban took full control of Afghanistan grabbing global attention and many calling the evacuation of US diplomats another „Saigon moment,“ more discussions emerged online over „who’s next“ amid the US failed commitment. 

For years, Washington has been turning its foreign policy into ideology-driven geopolitical games, and now the rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan has even worried some in the island of Taiwan and sounded a warning bell to secessionists there, as it’s not the first time the US has abandoned its allies and the so-called alliances, which are made use of only as chess pieces in Washington’s global strategy. 

The Taliban took over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on Sunday as the country’s president Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Many were shocked at the speed with which the Taliban took control as the US-backed government collapsed, and they compared the scenes in Kabul of US diplomats being taken to safety by helicopters to the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, when US Marines burned sensitive documents on the roof of the US embassy in Saigon. The Washington Post also pointed out that the Taliban’s stunningly swift advances across the country have sparked global alarm, reviving doubts about the credibility of US foreign policy promises and drawing harsh criticism even from some of its closest allies.

Taiwan is nervous 

„Yesterday’s Saigon, today’s Afghanistan, and tomorrow’s Taiwan?“ read some online posts by internet users in the island of Taiwan, implying that the so-called alliance that Taiwan has forged with the US is nothing but an empty promise that will eventually „leave the Taiwan people hurting alone.“

An Op-Ed in local Taiwan news site said that the unexpected end in Afghanistan has „shocked“ US allies and partners, who have become wary of putting the safety of Taiwan in the hands of the US, as the latter may pull the same tricks played in Kabul.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan will also have a global impact, especially weighing on its image and credibility, the Op-Ed in a Taipei-based news site said, as Washington’s strength in maintaining the global order will be challenged, and the power confrontation in the Indo-Pacific Strategy targeting China will be questioned.

„They should say the day before yesterday, Vietnam, yesterday, Taiwan and today, Afghanistan. Wasn’t the island abandoned by the US in 1979?“ Chang Ching, a research fellow at the Society for Strategic Studies based in the island, told the Global Times on Monday. 

As part of its latest efforts to play the „Taiwan card“ in countering China, the Biden administration recently announced it would hold a virtual Summit for Democracy, which excited the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority of Taiwan. Since taking office in January, US President Joe Biden has taken various measures to demonstrate its deterrent against China, such as deploying military aircraft to the island, sending warships across the Taiwan Straits several times and dispatching senior officials to visit the island, blatantly playing the „Taiwan card“ to ruffle China’s feathers.

However, the failure of the US in Afghanistan should serve as a warning to the secessionists in the island, who have to understand that they cannot count on Washington, as Afghanistan is not the first place where the US abandoned its allies, nor will it be the last, experts warned. 

Credibility tarnished 

The aftermath of its failure in Afghanistan will further weigh on the Biden administration, as it is still struggling to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, which will put the US government in an awkward position not only at home but also overseas, as the total defeat of the US has dealt a fatal blow to Biden’s political career and the Democrats‘ credibility, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Monday.

„The US‘ fleeing action is a warning to the Taiwan secessionists, or rather, a forecast,“ Li said. He noted that if the island of Taiwan continues on a path misled by secessionists to directly confront the Chinese mainland, the US will cast Taiwan aside just as it has done with Vietnam, and now Afghanistan.

The Associated Press said in a report on Sunday that the 20-year war in Afghanistan was the US‘ longest and most expensive one, and generations of Americans will have to be burdened by the cost of paying it off. As of 2020, the estimated cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that the US has debt-financed has reached $2 trillion, the report said. 

While observers doubted the geopolitical value the island of Taiwan could deliver to the US in confronting China, some also raised questions about how much the Biden administration, which upholds the one-China policy, is willing to pay for the interests of Taiwan secessionists compared to its heavy investment in time and resources in Afghanistan. 

„Those who have a clear mind should understand that Taiwan residents can’t rely on the US. However, given the ideology-driven influence, some observers may see the situation in the island as being different from that in Afghanistan, but there’s one thing in common – America’s empty promise,“ Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Monday. 

The failure of America in Afghanistan will surely deala heavy blow to the Taiwan residents, and the DPP-led green camp may try to downplay its impact, Jin said, noting that the US retreat showed that it always puts its own national interests above everything else without taking care of its own allies. 

One media outlet in Taiwan also pointed out that the key issue is if a war breaks out across the Taiwan Straits, there will be doubts over whether the US will honor its commitments and intervene militarily, as the US‘ „blurry“ policy on the island and its snap decision on the Afghanistan issue have left its commitment to Taiwan „full of question marks.“ 

The US retreat from Afghanistan has taught the island of Taiwan an important lesson, that is, the cross-Straits relations must be resolved by Taiwan itself, as the US may choose to abandon the island at any time according to its own core interests, Chang Ya-chung, a Taipei-based political scientist and member of the Kuomintang, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Furthermore, the US has never promised to send troops if a military conflict occurs across the Taiwan Straits, and only said that it would sell weapons to Taiwan to increase its military strength, Chang noted. 

Recalling history, Chang said that the US abandoned the Kuomintang authority in the 1940s after World War II, roped Taiwan in during the Cold War to cater to its own needs, but cast it away again in the late 1970s.

Chang also emphasized that in face of the crisis, both the mainland and the island should keep in mind that we should not try to seek the answer from the past, but to find a way out in the future.

On the other side the Taipeh Times rejects such comparisons:

“Afghanistan not a parallel with Taiwan: academics

ENTIRELY DIFFERENT: Holmes Liao, formerly of the National Defense University, said that Afghan leaders are corrupt, while Taiwan has a stable democracy

  • By Chen Yu-fu, Jason Pan and Kayleigh Madjar / Staff reporters, with staff writer

It is impossible to compare Taiwan with Afghanistan, academics said yesterday in response to claims that the US’ withdrawal proves that Taiwan cannot rely on US military assistance.

Nearly two decades after the US took control of Kabul, the Taliban on Sunday swiftly retook control of the Afghan capital, prompting the nation’s president to flee.

Critics have been quick to compare the situation to the fall of Saigon after the withdrawal of US troops during the Vietnam War, with some suggesting that the US’ track record bodes poorly for Taiwan’s chances in the event of an invasion by China.

“Taiwan is not Afghanistan,” former National Defense University distinguished lecturer Holmes Liao (廖宏祥) said.

The Afghan government is extremely corrupt, while Taiwan enjoys a stable democracy, he said.

Additionally, Taiwan’s defense strategy is based on a standard island military defense, as opposed to the domestic strife and guerrilla warfare that typify the conflicts in Afghanistan and previously Vietnam, he said, calling the two “entirely different.”

The hidden problems facing Taiwan are the belief in a “great Chinese nation,” defeatism and unprofessionalism within all ranks of the military leadership, Liao said.

The US, Japan, South Korea, the EU and G7 nations all support maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait in recognition of the nation’s strategic placement within the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan East Turkestan Association president Ho Chao-tung (何朝棟) said.

Considering China’s considerable global influence, using Afghanistan to claim that Taipei cannot rely on the US is an erroneous comparison, he added.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) yesterday condemned some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) politicians for using the Afghanistan example to warn Taiwan about the dangers of relying on the US.

“Some are saying it should serve as a warning to Taiwan not to get too close to the US, and even use it as a taunt about China mounting a military invasion of Taiwan,” Chen wrote on Facebook. “Has the KMT not learned its lesson after being deceived by the Chinese Communist Party so many times? Or maybe it is a case of KMT politicians manifesting their suffering as ‘Stockholm syndrome’ victims?”

The parallel comparison does not work; US troops are not stationed in Taiwan, so there is no US military to withdraw, Cheng said.

“Taiwan has our own military for national defense, while we collaborate with other militaries and procure arms from the US and other allied countries,” he said.

In response to media queries for comment, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said: “The events in Afghanistan are connected to the geopolitics of the Middle East.”

“In a geopolitical context, Taiwan is situated at the forefront of an alliance of democratic countries, with peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait also being in the best interest of countries in the region, which Taiwan can contribute to,” he said.

Of course in the worst case, it was comparable as the USA might let fall Taiwan in the face of a Sinoamerican war and the fear of escalation. And the question is if the Taiwanese politcians and military are such a homogenous and united front against Mainland China or if in such an event parts of the KMT, business elites and militaries would not desert, capitulate or paralyze the Taiwanese military from within. China´s United Front as well as its secret services tacitly try to get parts of the Taiwanese elite over to its camp and make use of them as described in Sun Tze´s „The Art of War“ in the chapter about the 8 types of spies and as Beijing´s 5th column . And it would not be the first time in Chinese history that a high-ranking military or politician opened the city gate to the enemy without a shoot fired. But that still remains to be seen- hopefully not.

A comment in the Jerusalem Post gives a good overview about the alleged  winners of the Taliban victory:

“Afghanistan’s winners: Qatar, Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran

Most of these countries have hosted the Taliban or tacitly backed them.

By Seth J. Frantzmann 

August 16, 2021 16:51

The victors in Kabul will be those who benefit from the Taliban taking power. They will also be those who benefit or cheer as the US appears humiliated.

Among those “winners” are Qatar, Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran. This can be seen in various ways. Most of these countries hosted the Taliban or tacitly backed them. Others, such as Turkey, have sought to have a role in post-American Afghanistan.

Iran’s media is full of stories arguing that the Taliban won’t export extremism or threaten anyone and that Iran has always helped the Afghan people. Iranian official Ali Shamkhani, for instance, has put out positive statements about Iran’s role in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Al Jazeera was on hand to showcase the Taliban taking the presidential palace in Kabul. It appears Qatar had advance knowledge of the Taliban’s plans because Doha has been hosting the Taliban for years.

Qatar has a large US military base but has always backed religious extremists, including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and has given red-carpet treatment to the Taliban. This is a big win for Qatar, and it will use it for leverage across the Middle East.

While Qatar and Turkey benefit because of their links to Islamist groups and general backing for far-right Islamic movements, Iran benefits from seeing the US leave its doorstep. Iran also wants the US out of Iraq and will use the Afghan chaos to push it to leave Iraq as well.

Turkey will be working with Russia and Iran in Syria to try to get the US to leave. All these countries agree that they want America gone from the region.

Russia and China have both hosted Taliban delegations in recent years and months. They want to have open channels to the Taliban and consider recognizing them as the new government. This is important at the United Nations Security Council. With backing from Russia and China, the Taliban can get the international clout they need and eventually obtain wider recognition.

The meetings between Taliban officials and Russian envoys this week, which have been reported, are important.

“Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov will meet on Tuesday with the coordinator of the leadership of the Taliban movement [outlawed in Russia] to discuss ensuring the security of the Russian Embassy, Russian Presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said in an interview,” Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

“Our ambassador is in contact with representatives of the Taliban leadership,” he said. “Tomorrow, as he told me just 10 minutes ago, he will meet with the coordinator from the Taliban leadership for ensuring security, including our embassy.”

The Russian ambassador will discuss with the Taliban representative the details of the external protection of the diplomatic mission of the Russian Federation, Kabulov said.

This means that Russia may consider recognizing the Taliban at a future date. Russia could help put the wind in the sails of the Taliban.

But Russia has its own background in Afghanistan. It has noted that the US-backed Afghan government has fallen quickly. Russia wants to secure Central Asia as well, including its southern flank.

That means the chaos of Afghanistan must not spread. It will want to work with China, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran to make sure that the Taliban are contained and come to power in a stable way.

All these countries have common interests. They want the US gone from the region. They want America humiliated. They also want to share energy and mineral resources that may flow through Afghanistan. This is their invitation to help make the decline of the US and the West more rapid.

These countries have different ideological agendas. Turkey, Pakistan and Qatar have a far-right Islamic worldview of the world. They have wanted to work with Malaysia and even Iran on new concepts regarding an Islamic system of trade or television programs to confront “Islamophobia.”

Turkey and Qatar form an axis that backs the Muslim Brotherhood, and as such, there has been cheering in Syria and the Gaza Strip regarding the Taliban takeover. China and Russia have other ideas about how this may benefit them on the world stage.

For now, the Afghanistan debacle is a major setback for the US globally in terms of image and the perception that US-backed systems tend to be as weak and temporary as the grass that greens with the spring and withers in the fall.”

It is interesting how the CPC officially perceives the seizure of power by the Taliban. On the one hand, the Global Times emphasizes that the seizure of power may be less bloody and specutacular than many Western media expect. There need not be a large bloodbath of retaliation and so far the Taliban have apparently been holding back. Saigon 1975 (or Iran 1979) is not inevitable. Perhaps the Taliban also want to be internationally recognized and appear moderate. Furthermore, it is believed that the spillovers could be limited. In so far as the Taliban were to prevent the 3 evils, China was ready to help with the rebuilding of the country and its integration in the New Silkroad BRI. The USA could help. Conversely, the demand is then made that if the Taliban would tolerate terrorist and seperatist forces that one should send UN peacekeepers. However UN peace keeping forces are no combat forces and it would be questionable what they could achieve if even NATO and the USA failed. Especially since the Taliban has so far rejected foreign troops of all kinds in Afghanistan. As the Global Times comments in a more optimistic outlook:

“China could participate in post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan: experts

By Yang Sheng

Published: Aug 15, 2021 10:46 PM

The Afghan Taliban’s military offensive has been moving faster than observers worldwide have expected, and it looks like it is just a matter of time before Kabul is taken, as latest reports from foreign media showed that the Taliban fighters have entered the capital and are negotiating with Afghan government officials on a peaceful transition of power. 

Although some voices from the West are expecting China to play a bigger role in Afghanistan after the sudden US pullout, even are speculating that China might send troops to fill the vacuum left by the US, Chinese experts said such speculation is totally groundless, and the most China can do is to evacuate Chinese nationals if a massive humanitarian crisis occurs, or to contribute to post-war reconstruction and development, pushing forward projects under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) when safety and stability are restored in the war-torn country.

The US can’t just leave and take no more responsibility in the region, and if Afghanistan encounters serious humanitarian problems, such as a refugee crisis, Washington should cooperate with other regional countries and at least provide economic assistance, because it was the US that has created this mess, experts noted.

If the Taliban builds a new country after it takes complete control, it should keep its promise to cut off all ties with terrorists, extremists and separatists – the „Three Evils“ – in the region, and make sure Afghanistan does not become a breeding ground for those forces. Only by doing so can it win more recognition worldwide than it had before the US invasion after 9/11, Chinese analysts said. They noted that if Afghanistan becomes a breeding ground for the „Three Evils,“ the UN Security Council may consider sending a UN peacekeeping force into the country.

US humiliation

According to AP, Taliban fighters entered Kabul on Sunday and sought the unconditional surrender of the central government, officials said, as Afghans and foreigners alike raced for the exit, signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and First Vice President Amrullah Saleh have left the country and headed to Tajikistan, from where they are going to a third country, media reported.

The beleaguered Afghan central government, meanwhile, hopes for an interim administration, but increasingly had few cards to play… Helicopters buzzed overhead, some apparently evacuating personnel at the US Embassy. Several other Western missions were also preparing to get staff out, AP reported.

Many netizens worldwide compared the current situation with the US evacuation from Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam in 1975, to mock the US failure and pointless military actions in the developing world, as well as those people who still have wishful thinking when it comes to the US government. 

Some Chinese web users said on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Sina Weibo that „those people who deeply believe in the US never learn the lesson, they just get abandoned by Americans like rubbish,“ and „the 20-year war ends like a joke. American soldiers died for nothing, the Taliban returned, and the only change is more people have died and American taxpayers have wasted their money to feed the US military-industrial tycoons.“

Earlier the same day, according to Al Jazeera, the Taliban had taken control of Afghanistan’s Jalalabad without a fight, according to officials and a resident, effectively leaving the capital Kabul as the last major urban area under government control.

Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies in Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Sunday that „the Taliban’s progress is faster than expected. Previously, many observers worldwide expressed concern that the Taliban’s military actions would cause a massive humanitarian crisis, but in fact, the Taliban’s performance has not been bad so far.“

„We didn’t see massacres or women get abused, and most major cities were captured without a fight. There are some accusations against the Taliban, but we didn’t see hard evidence yet. The US embassy’s evacuation also didn’t get interrupted or attacked even though the Taliban troops have already entered Kabul. All of this shows that the war won’t end violently,“ Zhu said.

On July 28, 2021, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Tianjin with the visiting delegation led by head of the Afghan Taliban Political Commission Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The heads of the Afghan Taliban’s religious council and publicity committee were also part of the delegation.

Wang pointed out, „We hope the Afghan Taliban will make a clean break with all terrorist organizations including ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) and resolutely and effectively combat them to remove obstacles, play a positive role and create enabling conditions for security, stability, development and cooperation in the region.“

Baradar told Wang in Tianjin that „the Afghan Taliban will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts detrimental to China. The Afghan Taliban believes that Afghanistan should develop friendly relations with neighboring countries and the international community.“ 

Zhu said that the world needs to be prepared to deal with a new Afghanistan under Taliban control, and the key is whether the Taliban would keep its promise to make sure no force can use their country’s soil to threaten other countries in the region, and be more inclusive rather than extreme, and then more countries will recognize  the country.

What can China do?

In Tianjin last month, Wang also said that „the hasty withdrawal of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan actually marks the failure of the US policy on Afghanistan. The Afghan people now have an important opportunity to achieve national stability and development.“

But some voices from the West still want to make excuses for the US‘ humiliation. Reuters published an analysis on Sunday entitled: As Taliban advances, China lays groundwork to accept an awkward reality. 

The article said the Taliban’s momentum as US forces withdraw is awkward for China, which has blamed religious extremism as a destabilizing force in its western Xinjiang region and has long worried that Taliban-controlled territory would be used to harbor separatist forces.

In fact, the US is the one that should have felt embarrassed and awkward, said Chinese analysts, and the reason why some Western media or analysts made such comments is that they want China to repeat the mistake made by the US – „stepping on the ground of the graveyard of empires.“ 

Zhu said the West is trying to set traps for China. „The current situation is a mess for the US, and will impact countries in the region, and then the impact will come to us [China]. If the Taliban controls the country immediately and brings about stability, this would not be bad news. Extremism and terrorism would be restrained in a stable country that realizes a peaceful transfer without chaos.“

Of course, some „Three Evils“ forces in the region will be encouraged, but Afghanistan’s impact on China should not be exaggerated, and the US is the one with the headache, Zhu said. He noted that other anti-government armed forces in the region are unlikely to replicate the progress that Taliban has made in Afghanistan.

Pan Guang, a senior expert on counter-terrorism and Afghan studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday that „in order to prevent the situation from spilling over, China has already started counter-terrorism cooperation with other countries in the region including Tajikistan and Pakistan to strengthen border control.“

What China could do is participate in the post-war reconstruction and provide investment to help the country’s future development, Pan said.

„The US can’t just run away. It should also take responsibility to rebuild the country and provide assistance. Washington should be supportive of international cooperation on anti-drug and refugee issues,“ Pan said. „If Afghanistan encounters a huge crisis in the future, the UN Security Council would need to be united and pass a resolution to send a peacekeeping force, and this would need the US to be supportive and responsible as well.“

Of course the Afghanistan withdrawl will also have consequences for Europe and Ukraine. As already Trump called NATO „obsolete“ and questioned the defense duty of the USA for Europe and could be reelected or drag the USA in an internal longstanding conflict, Putin-Russia will also doubt the reliability of the USA for Europe and especially for Ukraine. He already tested Biden when he deployed Russian troops at the Ukrainian border. While Biden still sticks to the NATO treaty obligation and looks for a deescalation with Russia and maybe a sort of detente to bring Russia more in distance to China in the coming Sinoamerican conflict, the support for Ukraine is not guarenteed. Putin adviser , Russia expert and Gazprom adviser Dr. Alexander Rahr shortly commented the Afghanistan withdrawl of the US and Chinese threats against Taiwan with the words: „So will it happen. Now the Ukrainians know it“.

As the Sino-American conflict will intensify, the debate in Israel about the best way to deal with it has also already started. A comment in the Jerusalem Post claims that Israel may have to choose sides and that Israel should rely on the USA;:

“Israel will pay a price for being on wrong side of the US-China fight

America’s greatest adversary is not Iran, Islamic terrorism, or even Russia. It is China, and Israel is on the wrong side of those battle lines.

By Yaakov Katz

August 13, 2021 14:10

When Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flies to Washington in the coming weeks – a final date has not yet been set – he will meet a president who is riding high and ready to face off against America’s greatest adversary.

That adversary is not Iran, Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, or even Vladimir Putin’s Russia. It is China, and Israel is on the wrong side of those battle lines.

Bennett should bear this in mind, because while he will be entering the Oval Office hoping to secure security commitments on Iran and Syria, President Joe Biden and his senior staff are looking for Israel to cut back on its relationship with China. They will be happy to talk about Iran, the Palestinians, and retaining the IDF’s qualitative military edge, but they also want secure commitments about China.

“We need to wake up,” one top government official said this week.

That is the prism through which one should view the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Biden pushed through the Senate this week. Yes, it will upgrade America’s deteriorating roads and bridges and fund new broadband initiatives; but it will also help the US remain in competition with China, which has been beating the West’s investments in infrastructure for years. As Biden warned a group of senators in February about Beijing: “If we don’t get moving, they are going to eat our lunch.”

While some see Biden just continuing Donald Trump’s anti-China policy, the new president seems to be led by a clear strategy and not just statements. He is working to undermine Beijing on multiple fronts – sanctions, advisories against doing business in Hong Kong, and openly accusing China’s Ministry of State Security of launching cyberattacks against the West.

Israel received a taste of that cyber threat this week when the international cybersecurity company FireEye announced that China had hacked dozens of public and private Israeli tech and infrastructure companies as part of a plan to steal technology and information.

This is the same China that has been eating Israel’s infrastructure for the last decade. Ports, power stations, bridges, tunnels and more have all been built by China. All indications are that Biden will bring this up with Bennett when the two meet. Some in Israel’s government have recommended convening the security cabinet to discuss the issue. It is that important.

While Trump officials tried to move the previous government to crack down on Chinese investments in Israel, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not do much except buy time, with the establishment of a weak oversight mechanism in 2019 that officials admit is impotent. The Americans have noticed too, and want to see tougher action.

Which brings us to the delay in announcing which construction companies won the tender to build the Tel Aviv light rail’s new Green and Purple Lines. NTA, the government-funded company responsible for the design and construction of the transit system – which is run by former Prisons Service officer Haim Glick – has been dragging its feet in making a final decision.

(Officially, NTA Spokesman Avi First claimed on Thursday that the company was waiting for the Finance Ministry to allow it to open the envelopes. Asked about the claim, Finance Ministry Spokesperson Lilach Weissman, who represents Dir.-Gen. Ram Belinkov who also serves as the chairman of NTA, refused to respond).

The delay in announcing the winner makes diplomatic sense for Israel, if the tender has been won by the China Railway Construction Company (CRCC), a member of one of the groups competing for the multi-billion-dollar deal.

CRCC is well-known in Israel, and has worked here for years. One of its subsidiaries, the China Civil Engineering Construction Corp (CCECC), dug the Gilon Tunnel in the North in 2014 at a cost of about $200m, worked as a subcontractor on the Carmel Tunnel project for about $150m. in 2010, and for the last couple of years has been working on the Tel Aviv light rail’s Red Line to the tune of $500m.

Biden issued an executive order in June banning these companies from receiving any US investment, due to suspected ties to the Chinese defense industry. So Americans cannot do business with the CRCC, but Israel seems to think that it can.

The winner of the tender was originally scheduled to be announced in June. Some industry experts have speculated that Bennett wants to delay the announcement until after his meeting with Biden.

If that is his strategy, the prime minister might want to rethink it. Yes, once the tender winner is announced it is almost impossible to annul the decision. But Bennett would be wise to avoid the NTA announcing that CRCC has won the tender just a few weeks after he returns from giving assurances in Washington that he will cut back Israel’s ties with China. That will only cause Israel greater trouble.

Whatever the case, Israel needs to tread carefully in the years to come. America is going up against China with all of its economic prowess. Israel won’t be able to say that it didn’t know.

Facing the Afghanistan desaster of the USA and NATO and Iran going nuclear and setting up firerings around Israel by Hisbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Israeli voices also are getting louder that Israel cannot rely on the USA anymore and should have a self-reliant plan B if the USA doesn´t care about the Middle and Greater Middle East anymore and focuses on the Far East and the Asian pivot:

“Taliban takeover of Afghanistan shows Israel must be self-reliant – ex-diplomat

Arthur Lenk: „The horrific events in Afghanistan must be a hard, scary lesson about changing interests and cold, hard calculations,“

By Jerusalem Post Staff

August 16, 2021 04:35

The Taliban’s sudden conquest of Afghanistan after US forces withdrew is a reminder that Israel can only count on itself for its defense, former Israeli ambassador Arthur Lenk tweeted on Sunday.

„The USA is our closest ally. They have been there for Israel time and again over the years. But the horrific events in Afghanistan must be a hard, scary lesson about changing interests and cold, hard calculations,“ Lenk wrote. 

„Dangerously, in 2021, self-reliance is more important than ever.“

Lenk, a veteran diplomat who served as Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, South Africa, Eswatini and Lesotho, added that he did not mean to imply that the Jewish state was friendless.

There is a need „to protect partnerships, relationships, alliances and reputation,“ he wrote, adding that one must „have a plan for a rainy day when all of the above might fail.“

Lenk’s remarks come as the Taliban made rapid progress in taking over Afghanistan, recently breaching into the capital Kabul and seizing control of the presidential palace.

This rapid conquest came after US forces withdrew from the country, ending an American military presence after two decades of fighting.

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