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On the issue of cooperation with Afghanistan

In the process of monitoring the topic of the "stuck" results of the presidential elections in Afghanistan, one has to hear various expert opinions about this country, which is positioned as a "resource of great opportunities", including in terms of the implementation of various projects. It is therefore natural and logical to ask about the nature of such statements and the degree to which they are justified, taking into account the objective military and political situation and forecasts of its development.

As you know, even the massive U.S. military presence in Afghanistan since 2001 has not led to peace or any desired stabilization there. On the contrary, the situation tends to deteriorate day by day, which even the Americans themselves admit when they talk about the withdrawal of their contingent.

Historical experience has shown that Afghanistan is hardly acceptive to external influences. It is generally believed that no one has been able to truly conquer this country for many centuries. It is easy to invade, but impossible to manage later (as the experience of the British Empire and the USSR has proven before the USA). Even more so, it is impossible to reform, especially under external management.

The importance of agreements with the Taliban, which are unlikely to be seriously respected by them, should not be exaggerated (historically, Afghan tradition does not strictly adhere to agreements at all). It should be understood that the Taliban is a rather loose and poorly moderated structure. By its very nature, it is a conglomerate of different factions with dominance of individual warlords in the decision-making system. Even if one theoretically assumes that a certain wing of the Taliban will eventually be able to reach an agreement with the government in Kabul (which is unlikely), due to the existing competition, some of the field commanders may move to another "camp". Given the conflict of interests of major global players in Afghanistan, regardless of the timing and format of the US withdrawal, it is likely that this will lead to further strengthening and legitimisation of the Taliban, another redistribution of power, spheres of influence and controlled territories – in fact, to a new round of uncontrolled destabilization in Greater Eurasia with attendant humanitarian and security implications for the entire region. All of this is of particular relevance to us, including in connection with the presence of large groups of labour migrants from Central Asian countries mentally close to Afghanistan in neighbouring Russia, and due to other factors.

Such a scenario could explode the already fragile regional security situation in the region and brings to the agenda a number of problems and risks associated with terrorism, religious extremism, drug trafficking and illegal migration.

In addition to the effect of direct influence on Russia and Central Asia, the aforementioned problems may affect, to one degree or another, the interests of our other partners:

  • China, especially in the context of the onshore part of the Belt and Road project, since a sharp increase in instability in Central Eurasia in the event of a new disintegration (federalization) of Afghanistan will seriously increase the risks of implementing this project;
  • India, which traditionally supports all Kabul governments that can compete with Pakistan, given the problem of Afghanistan's non-recognition of the "Duran Line" separating the Pashtun territories of Afghanistan from the Pashtun territories of Pakistan;
  • Pakistan, as any instability in Afghanistan tends to be immediately extrapolated to northwest Pakistan;
  • Iran, since it will automatically be drawn into any intra-Afghan conflict due to the ties of Afghan Hazara - Shiites with Iranian co-religionists;
  • The EU, as waves of refugees could reach Europe (in recent years, Afghan refugees have been a significant category in Germany, where they are second in number only to the refugees from Syria).

In addition, there is a potential threat of a new generation of international terrorists being trained in Al Qaeda and ISIS camps in Afghanistan itself, which is already a global threat.

Thus, in the light of the above projections, if we are talking about the effective promotion of the national interests of the Republic of Belarus, everything that concerns Afghanistan should be carefully evaluated and comprehensively refracted through the expert prism of all our partners in the region.