9 11 was used by the then Bush Jr. Government to reconfigure the geopolitical world order in the direction of the Greater Middle East and Central Asia beyond 911 and Afghanistan. Before fracking- USA emerged , the Greater Middle East was still the „energy ellipse“, as Cheney summarized it in his own energy report at the time. At that time,Bush jr. Rumsfeld, Condoleza Rice, Cheney, Netanyahu and the Neocons developed the insane plan to democratize the Greater Middle East, Iraq should become the democratic lighthouse, a new generation of suppressed and democracy-loving young Arabs should be brought to power who would be so grateful to the US that they will continue to deliver the oil, privatize the state oil companies of the Panarb regimes, give up hostility to Israel, put an end to terrorism and then the pan-Arab and non-Islamist regimes Syria and Libya and Islamist Iran should have been following aswell as the Axis of Evil. Afghanistan was essentially a sideline because of 9 11, albeit the justification for everything else. The USA did not use the war to bring a Central Asia strategy and to perpetuate itself there. Russia and China have taken on this with the SCO and after the withdrawl of the USA from the Greater Middle East under Obama, Trmp and Biden , whereby China sees this as the beginning and also an essential part of controlling Eurasia, its Go East policy and the New Silk Road. At the moment the question arose: Northern Alliance and buffer zone / liberated area in Northern Afghanistan with Russia or not. Refugee land, bridgehead and roll back option, also for many Afghans and refugees, but this does not seem to meet with any approval in either the de-engaging West or Russia. At the moment, Beijing and Russia are full of joy about the Afghanistan disaster of the West, talk of the end of Western dominance and the fall of the Pax Americana , are threatening Taiwan, Israel and the Ukraine, as one headline of the Global Times, shouts: „Afghanistan today, Taiwan tomorrow“. The Western liberal and democratic system is seen as dysfunctional and due to its value orientation claimed as doomed. Joint Russian, Chinese and Iranian maneuvers are now also being held in response. Or as the Global Times proudly proclaims:
“China, Russia, Iran military drills in Gulf enhance regional security, against external interference
By Song Zhongping Published: Aug 24, 2021
China, Russia and Iran will hold joint maritime exercises in the Persian Gulf around late 2021 or early 2022, according to Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan who was cited in a report by RIA news agency on Monday. Dzhagaryan said the drills are to „ensure the safety of international shipping and the fight against sea pirates.“
It is vital for China, Russia and Iran to ensure the safety of international shipping. Most of Russia’s international trade is carried by cargo ships. Iran also relies on shipping for its oil exports. China’s imports of oil and gas and some other foreign trade depend on shipping as well. To ensure the safety of shipping is to safeguard the economic security of the three countries. Therefore, it is normal to see China, Russia and Iran cooperate in terms of navy, especially their joint efforts against regional hegemony and sea pirates.
When reporting the news of the drills, the New York Post mentioned that, „The news comes as the US struggles to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan.“ China, Russia and Iran are friendly partners. The three countries are engaging in cooperation in various fields, and as regional countries, are keeping a close eye on the ever changing Afghanistan situation. The US‘ hasty withdrawal will inevitably lead to a crisis and uncertainty in Afghanistan. The three countries‘ cooperation in this regard will help maintain Afghanistan’s domestic peace and prevent the spread of terrorist forces. But their main consideration for the joint military drills is to secure the safety of international shipping of the Persian Gulf, and has little to do with the Afghanistan situation.
The joint military exercises among China, Russia and Iran are of the political significance. This shows that China and Russia firmly support Iran in maintaining its legitimate foreign trade, especially via shipping. Beijing and Moscow support Tehran’s reasonable demand concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue, and encourage Iran to strengthen its capabilities to guarantee regional security. This can prevent Western forces from deeply interfering in the regional affairs in the Persian Gulf and Iran’s internal affairs. China and Russia may hope to boost Iran’s military capabilities by virtue of the drills as well, so that Iran can effectively counter the threat from the Western countries.
The New York Post especially mentioned that the drills will be conducted by „three of America’s biggest adversaries.“ Another article by US state media mouthpiece Voice of America in April asserted that Beijing was roping in Tehran and Moscow to form a threesome of „autocracies“ and rally against a „democratic“ group.
Cooperation among China, Russia and Iran is centered on mutual benefits and win-win, rather than forming an alliance and engaging in confrontation. Take China and Iran. Iran can provide China the much-needed oil, and Iran hopes to increase its economic strength by expanding its energy exports.
Now, the US is imposing its ideology on all of the countries. It has been trying to forcefully divide the international community into two camps. It is even eyeing for hosting the Summit for Democracy. The US‘ shameful record in democracy and human rights is widely known. The US‘ move could only make the international community realize the hypocrisy of US democracy and human rights. The US turns a blind eye to the severe situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the death of more than 600,000 lives in the US. Washington is not qualified to talk about „democracy and human rights.“ Its attempt to create a so-called democratic alliance is doomed to fail.
When dealing with international relations, most countries think about their own interests rather than dancing to the US rhythm. Washington thought it could lead the other countries by the nose by touting out the so-called democratic values. But such a baton does not work anymore. These countries eye pragmatic interests, and will not serve US hegemony.
The author is a Chinese military expert and TV commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org
So not only in the South China Sea, in the East China Sea, in the Indo-Pacific, US and Western interference is forbidden, but now also in the Persian Gulf. In Russia there is also a feeling of triumph, but in the case of Afghanisatn Russia is still not sure how to deal with the Taliban nad Islamism. As Pavel Felgenbauer writes at the Jamestown Foundation:
„The sudden collapse of the Afghan National Army and security forces, the fall of Kabul without a fight, President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country, and the victorious Taliban taking everything are currently a source of mass revelry for the state-controlled Russian media. The propaganda machine describes the hasty and disorganized withdrawal of the United States and allied forces from Afghanistan, along with the collapse of their Afghan allies, as a turning point, signaling the decline of US regional and global power and credibility. Russian outlets accuse US President Joseph Biden of double dealing and incompetence (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, August 17). Ukraine and other former Soviet republics seeking alliances with the West are told to take notice. The underlying message in all this coverage and commentary is that the US may abandon them and flee when Russian (or pro-Russian) forces sweep in to cleanse the collaborators out of Kyiv and other “historically Russian” cities (Vzglyad, August 16).”
The Russian propaganda portrays the West as a corrupt, ineffective, rotten system insider and outside, which disintegrates and becomes dysfunctional as the case Afghanisatn would proof:
“This bout of gloating could be written off as another opportunistic Kremlin propaganda campaign, exploiting PR ammunition provided by the mainstream media in the US and Europe. But actually, the top Russian officialdom is publicly backing up the present anti-American onslaught and, in some cases, exceeding it in outspokenness.
The speaker of the State Duma (lower chamber of the Russian parliament), Vyacheslav Volodin (57), has written that the entire US foreign policy is collapsing. Volodin accuses Washington of facilitating an increase of opiate production in Afghanistan “hundreds of times” while impoverishing the Afghan people. The US and its Western allies have been spending staggering amounts of money to “promote democracy,” but the results have been of little value (T.me/vv_volodin, August 17).
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev (70), President Vladimir Putin’s right-hand man and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s counterpart in US-Russian consultations, has accused the US military of misappropriating billions of taxpayers’ dollars designated to arm and train the Afghan security forces that melted away as the Taliban swept in. According to Patrushev, the Americans were involved in Afghan opioid production and trade, while the US military-industrial complex profiteered on procurement connected with the war. Patrushev sees a lot of similarities between the Afghan debacle and the situation in Ukraine, where Washington has been “nominating rulers of its own liking, providing Ukrainians with defunct weapons it does not need, while the [Ukrainian] nation is on the verge of collapse and disintegration, overtaken by narcotics and extremism.” According to the Russian Security Council chief, the rulers in Kyiv are US lackeys, and their plight will be the same as that of the US lackeys in Kabul: the Americans will ditch them and run (Izvestia, August 19).
“ Moscow’s point man on Afghanistan, special Kremlin envoy Zamir Kabulov, has for many years been promoting the Taliban as the inevitable winner of the Afghan civil war (see EDM, July 15). Ambassador Kabulov has been insisting Russia must promote ties with the Taliban and ditch the losers: the US forces in Afghanistan and the Ghani government. After the fall of Kabul, Moscow is not evacuating its nationals and is keeping its ambassador and embassy in place. Reportedly, over the past few years, Kabulov developed warm personal ties with the chef of the Taliban political office in Qatar, the group’s main international negotiator and, apparently, number two in the movement, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The Taliban has promised Moscow there will be no spillover of Islamist radicalism or terrorism into the Central Asian “stans” after the reestablishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Kabulov seems to believe his partner Baradar: “I have long figured our Taliban partners [Baradar] are much more trustworthy than the US puppet [sic] government in Kabul” (Gazeta.ru, August 16).
The Russian ambassador to Afghanistan, Dmitry Zhirnov, told Russian state TV that Taliban fighters are guarding the outside perimeter of his embassy and have introduced good law and order to Kabul. Zhirnov accused Ghani of fleeing Kabul with a planeload of cash, an accusation Ghani has rejected. According to Zhirnov, as the Taliban was entering Kabul on August 15, his embassy staff observed Afghan government police officers taking out of the building of the local interior ministry crates of beer: “Stealing their most essential asset” (Vzglyad, August 18; Militarynews.ru, August 19).
Russian diplomats are openly rooting for the Taliban. But if Baradar’s (and Kabulov’s) assurances of a peaceful and friendly Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan fail to pan out, Moscow is ready to defend the former Soviet border using its 201st Motorized Rifle Division based in Tajikistan, supplemented by local forces, to stop any hostile invasions (see EDM, July 28). But will these forces be adequate to block a jihadist infiltration and subversion of the Central Asian republics? After all, each of those countries features secular, corrupt authoritarian regimes that rule over impoverished and frequently suppressed Muslim-majority masses.
Kabulov’s opinions are not the only ones making the rounds in Moscow. Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who controls a sizable private army of Kadyrovtsy and likes to profess both his personal loyalty to Putin and his Islamic Sufi (anti-Salafi) credentials, has called on Russia and its allies “to prepare for the worst.” According to Kadyrov, the Taliban as well as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda were created by the US to use against Russia, so “the border with Afghanistan must be reinforced” (TASS, August 16).
Alexei Arbatov (70), a well-respected think tanker, politician and security expert in Moscow, has practically nothing in common with Kadyrov; but both seem to concur on what must be done in response to the fall of Kabul. Arbatov believes the 201st base and local forces are not sufficient to keep the border safe. Russia’s military presence in the region must be vastly increased, including the redeployment of Russian border guards in Tajikistan, he said in a recent interview (Militarynews.ru, August 16). Yet Moscow entertains other grand plans that could be hampered by a serious security emergency in Central Asia. In particular, Russia has been concentrating forces since spring 2021 on the border of Ukraine, including substantial contingents from the Central Military District, from Siberia and the Volga region—forces that are normally earmarked primarily for Central Asia if something goes wrong there. The gloating euphoria that engulfed Moscow after the fall of Kabul could still blow up in Russia’s face.“
However the Jamestwon Foundation held a very informative webseminar we want to recommend: “Russia’s Search for a Role in the Taliban’s Afghanistan”
Defense Analyst and Columnist, Novaya Gazeta
Distinguished Senior Fellow, The Jamestown Foundation
S. Fredrick Starr
Chairman, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute
Very informative. The main positions:
Pavel Felgenhauer speaks of the overextension of the Russian military and Russia. Russia does not have the capacity to cover the Far East, Europe and Central Asia at the same time. The Russian military hates improvisation. Furthermore, the overxtension in Central Asia would have been the case when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and as a result had to give up Europe and Asia. At the same time, this was also an economic and domestic political issue that could lead to instability within Russia and perhaps even to regime change. He rejected Western cooperation with Russia because Russia was neo-imperial and chained itself to Beijing, which had the manpower and economic strength, could easily send 200,000 troops to Central Asia. He also referred to joint maneuvers in the hundreds of thousands.
Fred Starr outlined 3 scenarios: Hardcore Taliban, moderated Taliban or collapse and civil war. Accordingly, there were also 3 factions in Moscow, although the tendency is to keep in touch with the Taliban, to remain neutral and to wait. The most important point for Fred Starr was the alleged awakening of Central Asia, which was an independent player beyond Moscow and Beijing and also wants to include Turkmenistan and Afghanistan and is interested in a strategy balancing between the USA, China and Russia in order to preserve its own independence as new copperating entity. It would be a big mistake if the USA now only wanted to turn to the Asian Pivot in the form of East Asia and China and ignore Central Asia, especially since this is part of the New Silk Road and China and Russia’s neo-imperial plans, although he saw Russia differently from Beijing, with the planned construction of a railway line to the copper mines in Ayan and other plans to expand Pakistan’s CPEC and Gwadar and an Iranian port but the geopolitical situation would have tremendiously changed by this. The USA shuld understand: Central Asia is also Asia and the Asian Pivot.
Furthermore, the effects on the North Caucasus, the South Caucasus, Pakistan and India are touched upon, whereby it is assumed that a rethink will take place in New Delhi, especially since Central Asia would have an equally central role for India, not least because of economic interests countered that India had different interests than China and that the SCO became more and more dysfunctional the more it spreads. A really exciting and high-quality discussion that hopefully will also take place in Germany some time.
So far it has only taken the form of a blame game and no deeper analysis or even a holistic strategic discussion. The Europeans hold the USA responsible, the USA the Afghans, the Afghans each other, etc. The US American Carnegie Foundation is also playing the ball back to the Europeans that they too practice self-criticism:
“What Afghanistan Should Mean for Europe
By Judy Dempsey
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban lays bare Europe’s lack of strategic foresight and dangerous dependence on the United States. The EU must address its shortcomings or risk losing the ability to defend its values and interests.
August 24, 2021
As soldiers and diplomats from many countries try and evacuate their citizens and Afghan employees from the chaos and danger of Kabul airport, the blame game is in full swing.
The German government, in particular the foreign ministry, has been lambasted for its slow response, its lack of preparedness, and its inability to respond two months ago to requests by its own diplomats based in Afghanistan and its defense ministry to put evacuation plans in place. That evacuation drive is now underway.
Other European capitals, notably London, have unreservedly blamed the United States for this human and political debacle.
It’s as if President Joe Biden was solely responsible for the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. It’s as if America’s NATO and other European allies had forgotten how it was former president Donald Trump who negotiated a so-called peace and withdrawal deal with the Taliban. It’s disregarded how, in practice, that deal gave this movement carte blanche to sweep across the country—an ambition it had been waiting to realize since 2001, when American troops entered Afghanistan.
Once the evacuation efforts are over, Afghanistan, like Myanmar, Belarus, and eastern Ukraine before it, will disappear from the headlines, except for the refugee aspect. When it comes to Afghanistan, there’ll be continuing wrangling inside the EU over how many refugees member states should accept, with everyone forgetting the fact that millions of Afghans are already in camps in neighboring Iran and Pakistan.
But it is the broader, geostrategic context of Afghanistan that will spell either ruin or opportunity for the Europeans.
There’s enough ruin already.
First, the Europeans, equipped over decades with the soft power tools of development aid and the hard power equipment of NATO, turned a blind eye to the relentless corruption of the government in Kabul.
It’s not as if they didn’t have enough intelligence to know how the billions in aid and inadequate training of the police and military were being squandered, often to the detriment of ordinary Afghans.
Over the years I have read the undistilled analysis by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). These reports have given a blow-by-blow account of the waste, the corruption, the unwillingness to tackle the weak governance, the theft of military hardware, and the sheer scale of the inefficiency of the reconstruction effort. European governments and their intelligence agencies had no excuse not to know.
Second, the Europeans cooperated haphazardly in the field of development aid and military operations. European aid workers told me privately how individual EU countries seemed obsessed with putting up their national flag over a completed project.
Certainly, the effort to build schools and get girls into the classroom cannot be underestimated. These were such positive aspects of the past two decades. The future of this generation of young women is now in jeopardy.
Third, and ask any NATO official or police officer about these deficits, the NATO mission in Afghanistan was flawed in several respects.
It did not give the essential spur to interoperability that would enable troops from different countries to work seamlessly together. The different military equipment systems, from helicopters and tanks to (the lack of) logistics and communication, made a mockery of pooling and sharing.
And as for the police training, the record of Germany, which was one of the first countries to undertake that mission, replaced later by an EU mission, was seriously flawed.
One of the main reasons for these shortcomings is that the national training systems are not integrated. There is no single training culture. The member states have their own methods, traditions, and instructions.
In short, the two decades in Afghanistan did not inculcate a European strategic culture at EU or NATO level.
Resorting to the blame game is no substitute for questioning Europe’s lack of strategic foresight and its indisputable dependence on the United States.
Inevitably, there are calls for a “European strategic autonomy.” Such a response is as short-sighted as it is unrealistic. Europe is going to continue to depend on the United States despite what happened in Afghanistan.
Yet, that dependence must move away from subservience to scrutinizing in a robust manner NATO’s goals and ambitions. For too long, successive NATO secretary generals, who owe their position to Washington, have unconditionally accepted this lopsided relationship. No wonder. The United States, besides being the biggest contributor to NATO, is Europe’s security guarantor.
It will remain one-sided until the Europeans start thinking strategically. This means taking an unjaundiced look at its capabilities, at its intelligence structures, at its different cultures that inhibit cohesion and solidarity, and the aims of development aid.
None of the above is easily attainable.
But if these fundamental shortcomings are not addressed, and soon, then not only will Europe’s efforts to promote its values and interests outside the bloc become futile. Europeans will end up turning their backs on those Afghans who were beginning to enjoy the universal values of freedom, dignity, and human rights. And Europe, even at home, will be unable to defend itself.
Dempsey is a nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe.
An appeal to Europeans to take a look at their own noses instead of just bashing Biden, but the dysfunction and ineffectiveness also arise with the EU and NATO, and this could become crucial if they were similarly paralyzed in a conflict in the Balkans or with Russia and be it the Ukraine. Hopefully the lessons from this will also be found in the NATO 2030 strategy, but General (retired) Domroese sees, despite the joyful departure last year for a new NATO strategy 2030, at the moment there is no common basis for such a strategy after the Afghanistan desaster. Domroese suggests that the Europeans and NATO should concentrate more on regional defense tasks and the closer European environment, especially since the whole interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were a disaster. He probably thinks more about the consolidation of NATO, the common deterrence of Russia in Europe, the Balkans, maybe also Greece or the Mediterranean Sea, including the Suez Canal. It remains to be seen. However, General (retired) Klaus Naumann sees this more optimistic and believes that NATO will publish its new strategy:
„I do not share Domroese’s view, because this would practically sacrifice the United States‘ European opposite coast. I think they will try to make up lost ground in Europe by working on the NATO strategy. This is also supported by a domestic US reason: Failure in NATO would hand over the midterm elections to the Trump camp. I think they will try to stay on course as long as Germany, France and UK follow suit.“
During this the blame game in Germany goes on: The heads of Merkel, Maas, Seehofer are demanded because of the evacuation diaster, the BND criticized because Germany´s forign intelligence service came to misjudgments, among other things, that the situation in Kabul was stable, while ex-BND president Schindler, who with General Domreose cooperates now in the consulting firm Friedrich 30 complains about the German data protection and the Federal Constitutional Court, which makes a systematic and offensive foreign intelligence and data collection impossible, but on the other side US secret services also did not produce better results without these limitations. Trump criticizes Biden, Biden Trump, then the various US government organizations, etc. We do not want to participate in this unworthy, especially tactical and not strategically thinking blame game. A change in personnel, especially with perhaps even fewer foreign and security politicians, as well as the demand for a new institution of a “National Security Advisor” will not eliminate the profound deficiencies that may also be due to the selection of the elite and the interests of the political and economic system .
At the end, two more reports from the possible new NATO front. On the one hand, a report by the Jamestown Foundation on US military aid to Ukraine, which fears that the next Afghan paper tigers have been bred in Europe that would not withstand a Russian onslaught:
“Seven Years of Deadlock: Why Ukraine’s Military Reforms Have Gone Nowhere, and How the US Should Respond
July 16, 2021
“Such education and introduction of new approaches should occur either simultaneously at all levels or starting from the top tier of the chain of command—it will not work otherwise.”
After seven years of war, the Ukrainian defense system has not reformed. The reasons are extraordinarily complex and intertwined. They range from a lack of political direction; the continued selection of senior officers who are old school “red commanders,” that is, those opposed to NATO and wishing to maintain the Soviet legacy; to the inability or unwillingness of officers to challenge a system marked by outdated or detrimental laws, rules and regulations, since breaking these ensures punishment and career failure.
The United States’ “Gold Standard” assistance of more than $2 billion to Ukraine since the Russian war started has not had any noticeable, let alone quantifiable, return on investment. Indeed, US-driven reforms will not succeed without changes to the style and methods of support. Such a rethink of US military assistance will have to include greater conditionality on the aid, takeover of the program by a single military commander fully focused on reform and spending, and greater emphasis on selecting and training those sent to help after a much deeper study of the existing problems and challenges.
Conversely, however, it is interesting to see how one of Putin’s best friends after Afghanistan now distances himself from his chief supporter, as he may now fear the fate of the then Afghan President Daud for himself in Europe :
“Lukashenka Says No to Russian Military Base and Deeper Integration With Russia
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 133
By: Vladimir Socor
August 19, 2021 05:48 PM Age: 5 days
In his marathon question-and-answer session on August 9, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka again ruled out the integration of Belarus with Russia at the level of institutions as well as the stationing of Russian combat forces on Belarus’s territory (President.gov.by, August 9; see EDM, August 16).
Time and again during his over-eight-hour-long press conference, Lukashenka extolled “Belarus’s independence and sovereignty as highest values.” He declared, “It is my duty to ensure the security and preservation of this first sovereign state in Belarus’s multi-secular history.” This message carries a double address: to Russia and the West. Specifically to Russia: “You are our relatives, I have always adhered to this policy. But we are two independent and sovereign states. We achieved our independence and sovereignty after many centuries, our people value this very highly.”
Lukashenka made clear that he continues to expect Russian energy price discounts and budget-support credits in return for Belarus’s geopolitical loyalty. “We have a firm military-political alliance with Russia, we do not retreat from it even by one inch,” the Belarusian leader asserted. This give-and-take would preserve the long-established status quo in bilateral relations. Lukashenka would not willingly go into any deeper relations with Russia. He proclaimed, “Our long-term plans for military-political cooperation are fully laid down. I do not see the creation of a joint Belarusian-Russian army even beyond the horizon,” thus ruling out a re-subordination of Belarusian forces to Russian command. However, he contended, “there will be not just a Russian base but all of Russia’s armed forces will be here, if a world war threatens to break out”—the least likely scenario by far. “The idea of a Russian base here makes the West nervous […] but no such base is necessary,” he clarified, “I have long ago agreed with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin on this,” thus implicitly committing the Kremlin leader. “We are discussing the acquisition of Russian S-400 air-defense systems at market prices, on credit. Our own S-300s are also good, and we know how to modernize them,” he posited—a classical Lukashenka maneuver to avoid the actual placement of Russian air-defense units in Belarus.”