As the US departed from Afghanistan after twenty years of its military presence, China is looking to fill the vacuum left in the war-ravaged country, which Beijing considers as a missing puzzle, for its dominance in Central Asia. As the dramatic scenes of the people falling out of US aircraft played out on social media, China was quick to react, slamming the US for its ‘messy’ handling of the evacuation of Afghan refugees.
Writing for the international analysis website InsideOver, Federico Giuliani said the Chinese reaction summarised Beijing’s elation at the US withdrawal from its neighbourhood. “Beijing has long sought to assert its dominance in Central Asia, and with Russia, it has been shaping the regional dynamics through the Shanghai Central Organization (SCO). However, for a long period, Afghanistan was missing part of the puzzle.”
According to the writer, the deployment of the US troops indeed provided China with the necessary security cover and stability to expand its economic footprint.
“Still, it could never assert itself fully with the US and other Western nations present in Afghanistan.”
Giuliani writes that the West’s exit now provides the necessary backdrop for China to cast its spell on Afghanistan.
On August 15, the Taliban took over Afghanistan after weeks of lightning offensive. For the next two weeks, US-led forces and other countries scrambled to evacuate their citizens and other at-risk Afghans.
Soon after the fall of Kabul into the hands of the Taliban, China was among the first to issue a statement saying that it is willing to develop “friendly relations” with the terrorist outfit. Aside from China’s quick response, experts of the region have also questioned the timing and manner of US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
With the US exit from Afghanistan on verge of completion after the swift siege of Kabul, now questions are being raised whether the strategic consequences of departure from the war-torn country were properly assessed by either Trump or Biden administrations.
A Europe-based think tank has found the decision to leave Afghanistan “inexplicable”, at a juncture when tensions are high with both of the US’ major rivals, China and Russia, located at Afghanistan’s doorsteps.
“How and why such a situation was acceptable to the two Presidents is perplexing, especially after the US had invested so much in Afghanistan for twenty long years. A lot of Americans also share this confusion, as a Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed this week,” said European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) in its commentary last month.
Biden’s popularity has suffered a dent after the lightning recapture of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Multiple polls showed that Americans were in favor of continuing military mission in Afghanistan, the think tank said.
With the visuals of the Kabul airport debacle recorded in the history books, the think tank states that there is little doubt that the confidence of countries that have committed themselves to democracy will be shaken and eroded by the recent happenings in Afghanistan.
(With ANI inputs)