The Post-American Middle East: From Instability to a New Regional Cooperation

It is a fait accompli that the U.S. will manifest a weak role on the international stage. In the 21st century the US role as a sole power has slowly been waning, the world has rapidly been transforming from unipolar to a multipolar world order in which China is the only game in the town in the U.S. threat perception manufacturing. The US policymakers perceive China’s military, latent and soft powers pose a great deal of threat to the US hegemony across the globe. China after the U.S. in 2020 had the world’s second-highest military expenditure of US$252 billion. The Center for a New American Security, 2020 report predicts that due to China’s robust economy its military power has been expanding and will be disturbing the U.S. military supremacy.

I would also like to mention here the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think-tank that maintains “Made in China 2025 is a real existential threat to U.S. technological leadership”. Unlike the US, during the pandemic China has made remarkable progress in economic growth. Amid Convid-19, China’s GDP expanded by 2.3% last year to $14.7 trillion, putting Beijing’s economy at merely $6.2 trillion behind the U.S.

I reckon the US role of managing the world order during the hard time of the pandemic has badly been exposed to the world. The Covid-19 has seriously tarnished the US exceptionalism. The pandemic is perhaps the first global crisis in more than a century, where no country is looking towards the US rather many states tilt towards China. China has achieved a milestone of fully vaccinating 1 billion people, over 70% of its total population. Joseph Nye opines that the US military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq tarnished its soft image, resultantly, paving the way for the consolidation of China’s position in international politics. I believe, China’s non-interference and its Belt and Road Initiatives BRI will further buttress its position in the international arena.

Great powers remain clear in their objectives before invading then abandoning Iraq and Afghanistan, the US would certainly have made dossiers to gain its core interests. The foreign policy of a state is dynamic changes according to evolving situations. The US fought with the Taliban for 20 years, later, inked Doha deal with same the Taliban. The deal of the US with Taliban is part of its long term strategy that ought to be seen in the near future. Indeed, US foreign policy is primarily designed by its military-industrial complex, Wall Street and its media. The bona fide interests and objectives of the aforementioned groups be assessed before analyzing the endless wars of the US.     

The history of Afghanistan unfortunately is replete with wars, including most recently the more than three decades of foreign occupation, civil war, and insurgency since 1978 caused irreparable human economic, political losses resulted in a feeble Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan to me are the most unfortunate people of the world withstood with inescapable wars imposed by others. The country had remained a battlefield of global and regional players’ rivalries sadly once again will remain a battlefield in a foreseeable future. The results of the war on Afghanistan appear to be long-lasting and excruciating. The takeover of Kabul by the Taliban might embolden Al-Qaeda, Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The recent attacks in Afghanistan carried out by IS demonstrates that the country is likely to emerge as an epicenter of terrorism and extremism, posing a grave threat to the region.

I think Afghanistan in the 21st century, under the current juncture, appears to be the only country on the planet that does not have an organized government structure, having a fragile economy based on foreign aid. A country in perpetuating wars for the last 4 decades, without proper government structure, with frozen nearly USD9.5 billion assets, 14 million Afghans living below the poverty line, in era of science and technology, arguably, will lag far behind and will head for a humanitarian catastrophe. As mentioned earlier, the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban is likely to embolden Al-Qaeda,ISIS, TTP and ETIM. Presence of these groups in Afghanistan might engulf the whole region in a new wave of terrorism and extremism.

China, Iran and Pakistan are the next-door neighbours of Afghanistan. Beijing, Tehran and Islamabad cannot remain immune to the instability of Afghanistan. Unstable Afghanistan will have spillover effects on them. China’s investment in Iran and Pakistan further brings closer Tehran and Islamabad. Both states can play a pivotal role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Pakistan now under the Taliban regime can easily extend China-Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC to Afghanistan.  In this regard, I want to quote Napoleon Bonaparte who rightly says that “there are only two forces that unite men – fear and interest”.  Fear and interests of China, Iran and Pakistan are ostensibly intertwined in Afghanistan. I believe that a great responsibility lies on rising and benign power China to launch Marshal Plan for war-torn Afghanistan.      

After US withdraw from Afghanistan, some IR scholars refer to the US, as an unreliable partner for the regional countries. It should be noted that reliable and unreliable terms in international politics to me are based on subjectivity. The US during the Cold War prior to the Iranian revolution in 1979 was a reliable partner of Tehran. The revolution of Iran caused a rift between the US and Iran, the former that used to be a reliable partner of the latter turned out to be an unreliable partner of Iran. I assume, the US for the obtainment of its long term objectives is least bothered with labeling it as an unreliable partner. International politics is mainly driven by realpolitik; the canon of realpolitik is espoused by the US in letter and spirit. Admittedly, regional countries including India a strategic ally of the US is desperately discontent with the US irresponsible and tumultuous withdrawal from Afghanistan. In the end, the US will craft a policy that serves its national interests rather than the interests of its allies.

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