الأثنين. أبريل 15th, 2024

Wissal Khlifi, Department of translation and Interpreting. 08-03-2024

Introduction

After a twenty-year long warfare between Taliban and NATO led by the United States, and preceding the withdrawal of the last American army units from Kabul airport, Taliban seized control of Afghan territories and crowned its victory by taking over the capital Kabul during the year 2021

The Global Air Forces Guide website issued

No one forgets that scene that included a military parade in the streets of Kandahar of American military vehicles and armored vehicles seized by Taliban after the total withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, which flew the “Black Hawk” helicopters over the skies of Kabul

Numerous Taliban combatants were seen in special forces uniforms, sporting sunglasses, tactical gear, and American weapons, riding an American armored ‘Humvee’ vehicles, obtained by the Afghan army, in addition to a range of aircrafts. These military equipments range up to $85 billion in addition to 73 aircraft and 100 vehicles

First – a free arsenal for Taliban as an underestimated force:

According to reports dating back to 2018, Taliban revenues reached $1.5 billion annually in addition to high-value metal trade, drugs, and arms trade in the black market

70,000 to 100,000 Taliban fighters own over 600,000 American-made light weapons, mortars, hand grenades, anti-tank weapons, tactical equipment, night vision, and about 16 tanks

One thousand night vision goggles, bulletproof vests, and 75,000 military vehicles including rugged terrain troop carriers

 Given the fact that China, Russia, and Iran, are great powers with military manufacturing capable of penetrating any defense systems and being competitors to America, they have an influence on the developments of events

The former American president proposed a solution for this massive arsenal left by America in Afghanistan through detonation or disposal, in return, Taliban proposed an offer to sell all non-functional weapons, not to mention the systems, plans, operation systems, and maintenance related to American equipment including aircraft like Black Hawk and T-92, which Russia and China were interested in obtaining to identify and penetrate enemy systems, and here lays the arms deal with Taliban

?Secondly, who benefits most from the return of the Taliban: arms deals and securing the Silk Road

The United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan has brought about a new reality in the region, with the rapid rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan posing both opportunities and challenges for regional powers in Eurasia, particularly for China.


-Beijing’s Strategic Partnership with the Afghan Taliban

The new situation in Afghanistan presents fresh opportunities for Chinese companies, particularly concerning investments in rare earth minerals. The value of rare earth minerals in Afghanistan was estimated to be between one trillion and three trillion dollars in 2020. China already controls over 85 percent of the world’s rare earth mineral wealth, surpassing Western powers and Japan.

Moreover, the potential stability in the country could increase Afghanistan’s attractiveness as a transit state for China’s Belt and Road Initiative

In September 2019, the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan agreed to extend the economic corridor between China and Pakistan as further stability in the country could lead to expanding the corridor through Afghanistan

Additionally, Integrating Afghanistan into the Belt and Road Initiative enhances China’s influence over India, as it provides a greater opportunity to economically encircle India through its neighboring trading partners

Furthermore, new railways or highways throughout Afghanistan will diversify export and import routes to China, enhancing land connectivity between the European Union and China

Such investments and projects related to integrating Afghanistan into the Belt and Road Initiative will increase the Afghan Taliban’s reliance on China and prevent it from supporting extremist groups within China or Central Asia.

 Enhanced military presence and security ties with Russia in the region

The return of Taliban to power in Afghanistan will pave the way for bolstering Russia’s already strong presence in Central Asian countries

Historically, Russia remains the dominant external power in the region in the face of threats of jihadist terrorist groups originally created by the United States.

Moscow will likely remain the primary arms supplier to all Central Asian countries through a deal that Russia benefited from after the US forces’ withdrawal

Furthermore, Moscow has expressed readiness to use military force to protect its “allies” in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, the three countries that directly border Afghanistan

Russia is concerned about the potential rise of terrorist organizations like ISIS and other emerging extremist groups in northern Afghanistan near its borders with all Central Asian countries, a concern highlighted in the latest round of Russian talks with the Taliban in Moscow since 2021, when the Russians sought a clear commitment from the movement that its military gains in Afghanistan would not pose a threat to Russia or its interests in Central Asian countries

In addition to diplomatic engagement with Taliban to secure Central Asian countries, Russian military exercises on the borders represent another aspect of Moscow’s strategy in dealing with potential threats from Taliban to Asian countries. These exercises can be seen as a display of strength to demonstrate Russia’s readiness to punish Taliban leaders if they stray from the line of not threatening Central Asian countries security-wise

This demonstration became particularly pronounced following the collapse of the previous Afghan government in Kabul, where hundreds of Russian armored vehicles and artillery pieces were concentrated on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan as part of a high-level military maneuver. Russian forces also conducted joint military exercises with Uzbekistan near the Afghan borders to prevent any infiltration into their territories from the Afghan side. These maneuvers were a clear message from Moscow that Russia is now the “guardian” of Central Asian countries against potential violence in the Afghan neighborhood

Russia also maintains military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with the headquarters of the Russian 201st Military Base being in Tajikistan since the 1970s, and this base will remain there until at least 2042. Russia also has a military base in Kyrgyzstan, which will remain there until at least 2027

Taliban’s Loot: A Regional Arms Market

The American newspaper “Politico” confirmed that the size of American military aid provided to Afghanistan over the past two decades is staggering, with $83 billion spent on training and equipping the army after years of devastating losses on the battlefield

The American-made weapons seized by Taliban could potentially fuel a regional arms market, and it remains unclear to US officials how much equipment Taliban has seized

Summary

Reports from the US Department of Defense state that the real threat today is the return of the Taliban and the emergence of a regional arms market that could be accessible to jihadist terrorist groups and insurgents

It is likely to proliferate in the region for many decades to come, posing a security risk as weapons can be easily sold to unknown militias. A black market for American-made arms brokers has already emerged, where they have been sold at bargain prices to Russian and Chinese entities, which have been the biggest beneficiaries of the Taliban’s loot. Furthermore, military and economic interests in the Eurasian belt still require diplomatic pragmatism in dealing with Taliban, even if this movement is classified as jihadist by the Russian administration and as terrorist by Washington

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