China offers BRI Silk Roads to Afghanistan and Iran. Russia and Germany connect up
America crept away like a thief in the night. US officers didn’t even bother to tell their Afghan allies they were leaving the base at Bagram, switching off the electricity as they disappeared. One can imagine the demoralizing impact the hasty and unseemly withdrawal had on Afghan infantry.
Since then, they have tossed a hand grenade: Turkey has been tasked with securing the vital Kabul airport. A lifeline for a beleaguered Afghan government, whose footprint does not exist much beyond the cities. The US hopes its retreat from Eurasia will be covered by a temperamental Turkey, sowing discord in Central Asia.
Twenty years ago, the discourse on Afghanistan included the eradication of terrorism, nation-building, women’s rights, and seeding of democracy. In short, modern civilization had been used to tempt the Taliban gunmen from the mountains. A few trillion dollars went up in smoke, enriching “defence” corporations.
The US has suffered a strategic defeat. It is not a tactical withdrawal, even though that’s how it is being portrayed.
The real reasons for the US invasion of Afghanistan were:
a) Lay gas pipelines from Central Asia, through Afghanistan, to feed the Indian economic machine
b) Play separatist games in Western China
c) Destabilize Russia’s Southern frontiers next to the “Stans” and
d) Surround Iran, sanction it, and wait for regime collapse. Mission unaccomplished, as Bush would say (privately).
Remember Iraq? There, the US is supposedly removing its last units too. Recall the refrain at the time: “Anyone can conquer Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran.” Where are those real men now?
In 2003, they attacked Mesopotamia for the riches of Babylon, which meant a sea of oil and gas was there for the taking, and then onwards to Persia.
Those days Dhaka’s political elite was pledging fealty to Washington, offering fuelling facilities for the all-conquering American armada. A few well-known NGOs also loyally joined the baggage train in Afghanistan, offering their services in the cause of nation-building, under strict American direction. Everyone wanted to be in with the “hyperpower.”
Experts expected nothing less than complete victory, and a remoulding of societies in the Western image, with a little help from plucky little Asian “allies.”
Today, the US, even with hundreds of bases in Europe and Asia (Eurasia), is stumbling, its prestige in tatters, its soft power deflating.
Does India have any influence?
South Asia’s wannabe superpower is side-lined, having chosen to follow the agenda of a declining hegemon.
The US foreign minister, Anthony Blinken, flies into Delhi to pull more wool over their eyes. Not content with one Quad, they have come up with a Quad 2 with Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and the US. Delhi will be given assurances. But then where exactly is India in all this?
Once Afghanistan, a member of Saarc, would have seen India as a regional hegemon, but now Delhi is at best a secondary player in the Hindu Kush. Delhi bet all on the failing Ghani regime in Kabul.
In sum, India has now lost Iran. It has found itself at odds with the Kabul to come. It has burned its bridges with China. By downgrading relations with the Brics, RCEP, and the SCO, India has forfeited its positions of influence in Eurasia.
Eventually, China expects to manage the transition in Afghanistan, connecting it to Iran and to Pakistan’s CPEC corridor. Meanwhile, the US searches for bases from which to despatch bombers in the future. Subtlety and finesse left the Washington Beltway ages ago.
Berlin buys more gas from Moscow
The Nordstream 2 pipeline agreement is a face-saving instrument to soothe American angst. The US failed to separate Germany from Russia. It had the audacity to tell mighty Germany from where to source its energy flows.
Core Germanic Europe looks east, and China looks west, with Russia in the middle. This is Anglo-America’s ultimate nightmare, when what it intends is to isolate Europe from Asia. Hence, the despatch of British destroyers to Crimea and an aircraft carrier off the coast of China to ratchet up tensions.
What does it all mean to Dhaka?
If Dhaka can sense this new Eurasia developing, it should beef up relations with Berlin, less with isolated London. Regarding sovereignty, the days of unstinting loyalty and vassal hood, as defined by Carter-Clinton adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, should be long gone.
Dhaka should gently tell Delhi it has no role in Bangladesh’s security posture. So, expect there to be mischief in Myanmar, to create a new Afghanistan. Intervention south of the Naf River means no solution to the Rohingya, and no direct road to China. Time to improve the quality of dialogue with Beijing?
Farid Erkizia Bakht is a political analyst. @liquid_borders.