The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is creating a power vacuum. It will be a nightmare for the world if this country becomes a hotbed for international terrorism again.
China and Russia, being geographically close to Afghanistan, are particularly concerned about public safety and are increasing their focus on this issue. Although the U.S. continues to have rocky relations with China and Russia, they must all have a sense that this could become a crisis.
Afghanistan, which has endured years of war, must not be left as a failed state. We would like the U.S., China and Russia to see that addressing this problem will benefit them all, and for them to build a cooperative relationship.
The Biden administration announced that it will move up the withdrawal deadline from Sept. 11 to the end of August. The U.S. has already withdrawn from its largest military site, Bagram Airfield, and more than 90% of the total withdrawal has been completed.
The disorder in the area continues to worsen. According to U.S. intelligence, the Taliban have expanded their control from around 20% of the country in April to over 50% now. The Afghan government controls less than 20%. In the northern region, more than 1,000 government security forces have fled across the border. Cases like this show that the effects are being felt in neighboring countries as well.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is made up of China, Russia and Central Asian countries, held a meeting and made a joint statement indicating its concerns. While China and Russia criticized the U.S., the joint statement called for “political dialogue and an inclusive peace process.”
From the Chinese perspective, there may be adverse effects from the Taliban in neighboring countries. For Russia as well, it would be a problem if there was an influx of terrorism through former members of the Soviet Union in Central Asia. Both countries have a strong desire to stabilize the situation in the region.
It is the U.S. that started the war in Afghanistan in 2001. Its goal was to remove terrorist organizations, but it’s irresponsible for the U.S. to abandon Afghanistan just for its own convenience. It has a responsibility to bring about a cease-fire and pave the way for a restoration of order.
The Afghan government and the Taliban recently opened peace negotiations, but they ended without an agreement. As the Taliban seem to be the stronger side, they show no sign of compromising. Due to its withdrawal, it can’t be avoided that the U.S. presence in the region will decline, but it should strengthen its multilateral diplomatic efforts involving the surrounding countries.
For example, the U.S. should deepen its cooperation with Pakistan, which has a close relationship with the Taliban; Iran, which is taking in millions of Afghan refugees; and Turkey, which is ethnically connected with Central Asia.
Although both have awkward relations with the U.S., China and Russia have useful diplomatic and economic connections. There may also be merit in using the U.N. and other organizations to build a framework for cooperation.
The Biden administration has referred to China as the U.S.’ most serious competitor, and relations with Russia are at their worst since the Cold War. However, the U.S. Department of State has called Afghanistan “one area where we can work together with common interests.”* Now is the time to make that a reality.
*Editor’s Note: This quotation, though accurately translated, could not be verified.