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Russian International Affairs Council continues to monitor the situation in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. On November 12, 2021 it held a roundtable “Afghanistan under the Taliban rule: national, regional and global implications” collecting distinguished Russian and Chinese experts to exchange opinions on various related issues.

Andrey Kortunov, RIAC Director General, and Zhao Huasheng, Professor at the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University, and China Forum Expert, delivered welcoming remarks.

During the roundtable the experts discussed the prospects of the political evolution of Taliban, latest developments in Afghanistan, influence and interests of the regional players involved, including those in Central Asia. Particular attention was paid to the prospects of Russia – China cooperation on the matter and their respective interests. Unfortunately, the experts rendered opportunities for cooperation limited.

Russian International Affairs Council continues to monitor the situation in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. On November 12, 2021 it held a roundtable “Afghanistan under the Taliban rule: national, regional and global implications” collecting distinguished Russian and Chinese experts to exchange opinions on various related issues.

Andrey Kortunov, RIAC Director General, and Zhao Huasheng, Professor at the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University, and China Forum Expert, delivered welcoming remarks.

During the roundtable the experts discussed the prospects of the political evolution of Taliban, latest developments in Afghanistan, influence and interests of the regional players involved, including those in Central Asia. Particular attention was paid to the prospects of Russia – China cooperation on the matter and their respective interests. Unfortunately, the experts rendered opportunities for cooperation limited.

Among the discussants were Ivan Safranchuck, Director of the Center for Eurasian Studies, MGIMO University; Fu Yuhong, Associate Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, Jilin University; Guan Guihai, Executive Vice President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies of Peking University; Andrey Kazantsev, Chief Research Fellow at the Institute of International Studies, MGIMO University; Professor at the Department of International Relations and Leading Research Fellow at the Laboratory of Political Geography and Contemporary Geopolitics, Higher School of Economics; Li Qingyan, Associate Research Fellow at the Department of Developing Countries Studies, China Institute of International Studies; Omar Nessar, Director of the Center for Contemporary Afghanistan Studies and Senior Research Fellow at the Center of Middle East Studies, RAS Institute of Oriental Studies; Zhang Jiadong, Director of the Center for South Asian Studies, Fudan University; Alexey Maslov, Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University, RIAC Member; Zhao Minghao, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Studies, Fudan University ; Temur Umarov, Consultant at Moscow Carnegie Center; and Ivan Bocharov, RIAC Program Assistant.

Ksenia Kuzmina, RIAC Deputy Director of Programs, moderated the discussion.

Key Points

Domestic developments in Afghanistan:

  • It is vital for Afghanistan to compose an inclusive government. With the current government Taliban won`t be able to effectively control or withstand the resistance in the country.

  • Another welcome move for the Taliban would be to give up its dogmatic and ideology-driven policy to gain broader popular support.

  • There an evident lack of resources in the country, needed to resolve domestic issues. It is, thus, necessary to improve the country’s investment attractiveness amidst the nearly paralyzed financial system. As for the consequences of the absence of such decision, opinions vary. Whereas some experts believe the humanitarian crisis is inevitable, others are skeptical about its imminence.

  • The problem of recognition from the international community remains a burning issue for the Taliban. There is no trust to their government from the citizens otherwise.

  • The economy of Afghanistan is used to depending on international aid, which Kabul is currently unlikely to get.

  • Terrorist groups pose a problem of regional destabilization in Central Asia and in the Middle East. The problem of radicalization is quite obvious here as well.

Dangers, posed by terrorist groups:

  • The role of internal clashes in Afghanistan is high. The SSK (Kurdistan Freedom Hawks) will pose a threat to the security in the country. Some experts think, Taliban will not be able to overcome the existing internal clashes. Others are of an opinion that minor anti- Taliban movements do not pose any serious danger to the current leadership.

  • Moreover, Taliban is connected with Al Qaida and ISIS, posing dangers to the neighboring countries in Central Asia and the Middle East.

The role of Сhina in Afghan question:

  • China sees Afghanistan as a source of both opportunities and risks. It is thus should enhance its engagement in the Afghan issue. Some experts believe that it is golden a opportunity for China to extend its power in Central Asia.

  • China should, however, have limited agenda and know how to respond to terrorist or extremist attacks the moment they occur. Beijing understands all the risks of over-engagement in the problem.

  • The Afghan issue isn`t important for China in geopolitical terms, according to Chinese experts. In BRI Initiative there is no place for Kabul.

The role of Central Asian countries:

  • The Central Asian countries are the main actors who can change the situation in Afghanistan. Tajikistan, for instance, plays an influential role in the Afghan issue. President Emomali Rahmon wants to raise popularity through intervening in the Afghanistan problem, and Tajikistan is now intensifying cooperation with Taliban to achieve its goals. Tensions and misunderstanding between Taliban and Tajikistan, however, may lead to the escalating conflict.

  • Uzbekistan sees the Afghan issue as o chance to become a leader in global geopolitical scale. Uzbekistan is the most dynamic actor in this issue.

  • There are common concerns of Russia, China and Central Asian countries about the dangers to the security on their borders. These countries don`t want to go inside the domestic situation, rather preparing for the case of emergency.

  • There remains a possibility of revolution in Kirgizstan. This fact will affect the country’s stance towards Kabul. However, we shouldn`t underestimate the strength of political regimes of Central Asian countries and overestimate the economic crisis in them. Central Asian regimes are strong enough to meet the danger of possible terrorist attacks on their borders.

The role of the USA and other third players:

  • The USA aims to maintain dominance in Central Asia to keep its military bases in this region. But the role of the USA is naturally reducing. Thus, it is seeking multilateral peace-building in the country.

  • The US – China collaboration in Afghanistan has many obstacles, however there is still a chance, according to Chinese experts, for Russia, China and the USA to find the common ground.

The role of collaboration of Russia and China in the Afghan issue:

  • Russia and China are the main actors who influence the situation. Both counties want to project their influence and exert power in the region in economic and political terms.

  • Russia and China share common strategic interests in providing the security to Central Asia, whereas terrorist groups pose a threat to the stability in the region.

  • Moscow and Beijing can cooperate and discuss this issue also with the help of the UN. Many problems like the one with recognition cannot be solved without it.

  • Moscow and Beijing, thus, should provide political, military and technical support to each other on the issue.

The summary of the event was prepared by Daria Eremenko, RIAC Intern.

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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
 
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