Updated: Sep 2, 2021
The United States met the deadline of pulling out of Afghanistan alongside allied forces before the deadline of 31st August. This was preceded by a swift Taliban takeover and the collapse of the US-backed government of Afghanistan. The next question is: “what does this evacuation and Taliban takeover mean for the international political economy and the G-7 in particular”?
As a recap, the United States went to Afghanistan in 2001 to prevent global terrorism. Afghanistan’s Taliban regime of that time protected the prime suspect of the 9/11 attacks – Osama Bin Laden. America went there to end the Taliban rule and rescue the Afghan from the clutches of a “failed state” which would become a “safe haven for terrorists”.
Twenty years on, the Afghan people proved to be passive in bringing this to fruition. A highly sophisticated US-armed Afghan military could not defend the country from Taliban fighters who used some of the most basic weapons to wage their insurgency and take over. Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan with the excuse of avoiding bloodshed.
Whatever the reasons are, the Taliban are back in control and the United States and leading economies have almost no reason to trust any Afghan group to re-establish a western-modelled democratic state in Afghanistan. Any such effort would be ill-advised since the Taliban now have sophisticated weapons seized from the Afghan government soldiers. In addition to their militaristic and logistic advantage on the harsh terrain of Afghanistan, the Taliban will be difficult to defeat in any insurgency effort. Therefore, it is apparent that the United States and G-7 will have almost no option but to recognize the Taliban as government of Afghanistan.
The International Political Economy, G-7 & Afghanistan
This year has been like no other year. The global economy is bouncing back after a difficult 2020. G-7 countries are working to vaccinate over 50% of their population so the economies could open.
Terrorism is no more a major threat to the world. In the past two decades, major countries have taken great precautions to prevent the movement of suspicious groups of people into their territories and the global economy has been increasingly digitalized.
Hence, the international community’s attention is moved towards making gains after COVID-19. It is also worthy to note that the centralization of authority that existed in 2001 where everything was affixed on the president of the United States is no more the case.
G-7 is now focused on three key things
1. Overcoming the Coronavirus and strengthening resilience against future pandemics
2. Promoting free and fair trade around the world and
3. Tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity
Since the current US administration is dovish, there is little to no possibility of the Afghan government getting any form of support from the international community to regain power. They seem to have exhausted their unique ability to defend their control of the country without losing territory to the Taliban.
Joe Biden has adopted a wait-and-see attitude and this is the assurance he gave the G-7 leaders. He has come out to express his disappointment in the US-backed Afghan government. From President Biden’s submission, the elected Afghan government did not state their vulnerabilities and based on these assurances, the United States pulled out. This implies the US has very little to do for them at this point.
The G-7 has concerns relating to the influx of Afghan refugees and the rebuilding of Afghanistan to a level where refugees can be sent back to Afghanistan. The global economy seeks stability and any issues of refugee movement and/or terrorism could affect G-7 countries and the international economy.
Recognition of the Taliban – More of “When”, or “How” not “If”.
Joe Biden was openly against the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is apparent that he has a soft-spot for the Taliban and might want to recognize them if they can prove they are capable of keeping the country together.
If the United States and G-7 maintain a hostile policy towards Afghanistan, they are likely to move towards China and Russia and the US and G-7’s security will be precarious. On the other hand, America can simply continue funding a Taliban government to gain their loyalty and make demands for them to build a broad-based government that integrates all the vital elements of statehood and governance of a modern country.
In 1976, President Nixon had no other choice, but to open up to Communist China and recognize them at the United Nations at the expense of Taiwan. This moved China from the Soviet Union and hasten the end of the Cold War. This principle is applicable to this situation relating to Taliban-led Afghanistan.
On the Geostrategic front, Afghanistan has become a major point of contention. China has moved into every country the United States abandoned in its quest to boost security. The US folded up vital business interests in Sub-Saharan Africa and many parts of Asia between 2003 and 2006. That was the same time China expanded into these countries.
Hence, it is apparent that China will be interested in a new Taliban-led Afghanistan. This is also consistent in China’s cooption strategy of supporting regimes blacklisted by Washington. Therefore, it is in the United States’ best interest to open a door for diplomacy with the Taliban government.
Then, there is the position of Iran which has used nearby countries as a front to elude US-led sanctions. A Taliban regime is likely to be courted by the Iranian regime and this could cause Afghanistan to become a bigger security threat than it was in 2001. If Afghanistan enlists in the conflict of the region, Iran’s proxy war and quest for destabilization in the Gulf region could intensify.
Then, there is a question of the stability of Afghanistan. The Taliban are known to be poor in governance, although they have shown themselves to be interested in forming a more inclusive government. In spite of this, questions remain about the transitioning process and how this could contribute to stability in a large country with a difficult geographic terrain. Thus, a new constitutional and transitioning process will mean a lot and determine the future of Afghanistan.