US Strategies in Afghanistan and the Peace Process
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as the collapse of the bipolar world, the US military invasion of Afghanistan provided a unique opportunity for the White House officials to pursue their dream of a unipolar world and show their superior power. The U. S interpreted the Islamic fundamentalism as opposed to its hegemonic power and defined its new enemies based on their relationships with the terrorist networks. That was why the U.S., with the aim of expanding its influence in Afghanistan (Which is of geopolitical importance), launched the war on terrorism and targeted the Taliban government due to their support of al-Qaeda. The importance of Afghanistan led the United States to use the concept of "ideological heartland" alongside the old concept of heartland (which had geographical features) in order to pursue its policies in the region, including in Afghanistan, as part of the Greater Middle East strategy.
By: Zahra Mahmoudi
After several rounds of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan was finally signed between them, on February 29, 2020. Following the signing of the agreement, intra-Afghan talks were supposed to begin soon between Afghan officials and the Taliban, but these talks were postponed due to different troubles caused by the controversial presidential election, lack of a single negotiating team on the side of the government and etc. Meanwhile, Khalilzad, as the US representative in the peace talks, contacted some countries in the region regarding the peace process.
This article seeks to review the US strategies in Afghanistan over the past two decades and analyze the US-Taliban peace talks, Washington's goals in the talks, and the international and regional views towards the US approach in the Afghan peace process.
2- US Strategies in Afghanistan (2001 to present)
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as the collapse of the bipolar world, the US military invasion of Afghanistan provided a unique opportunity for the White House officials to pursue their dream of a unipolar world - based on the views of some great writers such as Francis Fukuyama about the globalization of liberal thoughts - and show their superior power. The United States interpreted the Islamic fundamentalism as opposed to its hegemonic power and defined its new enemies based on their relationships with the terrorist networks. That was why the United States, with the aim of expanding its influence in Afghanistan (Which is an important country in terms of economic and geographical criteria in the geopolitical debate), launched the war on terrorism and targeted the Taliban government due to their support of al-Qaeda. The importance of Afghanistan led the United States to use the concept of "ideological heartland" alongside the old concept of heartland (which had geographical features) in order to pursue its policies in the region, including in Afghanistan, as part of the Greater Middle East strategy. (Javadi-Arjomand, 1398)
We should notice that the US invasion of Afghanistan actually paved the way for the country's military presence in the region. The United States sought to seize this opportunity in a bid to prevent the formation of any regional alliance with Russia and also block China’s path towards West and Central Asia. Iran is the other country that the United States has sought to contain it through military presence in Afghanistan, in order to deprive Iran from the benefits of access to the region's energy market and reduce its strategic position. The US strategy in Afghanistan since 2001 can be divided into three periods: the presidency of George W. Bush, the presidency of Barack Obama, and the presidency of Donald Trump.
2-1- George W. Bush's strategy towards Afghanistan
Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, then US President George W. Bush warned the Taliban in Afghanistan to hand over the al-Qaeda forces. The rejection of this demand led to the invasion of the US forces to Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, in an operation called “Operation Enduring Freedom.” George W. Bush could persuade other US allies via "either you are with us or with the terrorists" slogan and drag them into Afghanistan’s quagmire in order to allegedly build this country based on Japan’s model. By November 2001, the United States deployed nearly 1,000 troops to Afghanistan, which went beyond 10,000 by the end of 2002.
In 2002, the United States introduced the "war on terror" as the basis of George W. Bush’s doctrine in the US National Security Document. The only official justification for expansion of the US military presence in Afghanistan was the necessity of fighting terrorism and restoration of peace and security to Afghanistan. In 2008, the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan called for a strategic plan to deal effectively with the Taliban. So, George W. Bush ordered more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of troops to 48,500 by mid-2008.
However, the closure of all terrorist camps and the arrest or death of the terrorists, which were among the main goals of the US invasion to Afghanistan, did not come true. In fact, despite the killing or capture of a number of al-Qaeda members, the main leaders and members of al-Qaeda and Taliban were still present and active in Afghanistan. At the same time, the killing and wounding of Afghan citizens, the destruction of the country, the spread of insecurity, corruption, drug cultivation, the continued rise of the Taliban, and, of course, the direct presence of US forces in Afghanistan were among the consequences of this attack and Bush strategy.So, at the end of George W. Bush's presidency, there was no news about the Japanese-style Afghanistan, nor about the White House's alleged security. It was in this context that Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, announced in his campaigns that he would withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan by the end of his presidency and would end to this war.
2-2- Barack Obama's strategy towards Afghanistan
2-2-1- The first term of Obama's presidency
During his presidency, Obama adopted various security-military plans to pursue White House strategies in Afghanistan. Obama’s measures towards Afghanistan during his first term can be summarized into following points: the declaration of the AfPak strategy, the signing of a strategic agreement between Afghanistan and the United States in 2012, the transfer of military responsibility to the Afghan forces, starting the gradual withdrawal of the US troops, and pursuing the peace talks with the Taliban.
a) AfPak strategy
When Barack Obama took the office, the war in Afghanistan was announced as one of the most important concerns of his administration. So, Obama's new policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan was unveiled under the name of AfPak policy. The three key variables of Obama's AfPak policy were dismantling of al-Qaeda's safe havens, countering the Taliban, and strengthening of the Afghan security forces. The policy was aimed at defeating al-Qaeda, destroying its safe havens in Pakistan, and preventing their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan. Obama believed that Washington should only focus on the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan because U.S war was against al-Qaeda. So, under Obama’s policy, the region where Pakistan and Afghanistan were located was named as the most dangerous region of the world and effort to rid the region of the threats went on the top of his agenda. As part of the AfPac policy, Obama ordered the deployment of 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan in 2010 with the aim of extinguishing the flames of the war. In September 2010, the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan reached 100,000. Obama announced that some of these new troops would help to train the Afghan security forces in order to pave the way for the transfer of military responsibility to Afghans. He also raised the issue of withdrawal in July 2011.
b) The signing of the U.S.–Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreementin 2012
The US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed in May 2012. This agreement is valid until the end of 2024. The most important part of the accord was agreement over the beginning of negotiations between the two countries to achieve a bilateral security agreement. Afghanistan's main goals in signing such a strategic pact with the United States were to stabilize the central government, reduce the role of destructive foreign actors, attract foreign investments, and advance infrastructure projects.
c) Assigning military responsibility to the Afghan forces and gradual withdrawal of the US troops
Over time, Obama decided to announce the necessity of reinforcing the Afghan forces as well as the gradual withdrawal of the US troops. For this reason, in 2012, he declared that Washington would hand over Afghanistan’s military responsibility to the Afghan forces. Obama also stressed that by the end of the summer of 2012, about 33,000 American troops would return home. Under this plan, all the US troops were supposed to return home by the end of Obama's presidency (end of 2016). Shortly afterwards, Obama said that under a new plan, 9,800 troops would remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2016 and this number would be reduced to 5,500 in 2017. After months of wrangling between Congress and the White House, finally Obama announced that 8,400 US troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2016.
d) Pursuing Peace talks with the Taliban
With the announcement of the need to hand over military responsibility to Afghan forces, the U.S war on the battlefield was considered over, but the war between the Afghan government and the Taliban entered a new phase. Therefore, the White House decided to end the war through negotiation. The United States acknowledged that the Taliban cannot be defeated militarily and that some sort of deal is needed to end the violence. The first face-to-face meeting between the US officials and the Taliban’s representatives took place on November 28, 2010, in a village on the outskirts of Munich, Germany. The meeting was chaired by the German diplomats and the envoys of the Qatari government were also present at the request of the Taliban. The second round of talks was also held on February 15, 2010, in Doha, Qatar. Later, the third round of talks took place on 7 and 8 May, 2010, in Munich. The participating individuals and delegations were the same during all the three rounds of talks and the ultimate goal was to build trust between the United States and the Taliban in a bid to make Washington lift the sanctions against the Taliban, release the prisoners, and let the Taliban to have a political office.
2-2-2- The second term of Obama's presidency
Obama’s strategy towards Afghanistan during his second term included agreement to open the Taliban office in Qatar, signing of the Kabul-Washington Security Pact, and assassination of Mullah Akhtar Mansour:
a) agreement to open the Taliban office in Qatar
After the White House expressed its willingness to negotiate with the Taliban, this group managed to open an office in Doha in August 2013 to begin the peace talks. Obama called the event as the first step towards peace, but stressed that the Taliban must instead accept the Afghan constitution, sever ties with al-Qaeda, stop violence, and respect the minority rights as well as human rights. Meanwhile, Taliban refused to hold direct talks with Hamid Karzai, arguing that the United States has backed him in his way to power following its military invasion in 2001, which led to the fall of the Taliban government. But given that US-led NATO forces were due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Karzai embraced the idea of a Taliban office in Doha. But, when the Taliban used the sign of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" and hoisted its flag on top of the office building in Qatar, the Afghan government showed a harsh reaction. Karzai, who maintained that the establishment of the office is intended to show the Taliban as Afghanistan's representative, condemned the move and stressed that any peace talks should be led by and under the full supervision of the Kabul government. He noted that all the sides should avoid raising the suspicion as if the Taliban and the United States are the main parties of the talks.
b) The signing of Kabul-Washington Security Pact
As mentioned in the terms of the Strategic Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States in 2012, the signing of the Kabul-Washington Security Pact should have been done by Karzai as soon as possible. Karzai withdrew from signing the pact due to some problems such as Washington’s negligence in developing Afghanistan’s economy as well as in encouraging the Taliban to talks with the Afghan government, the killing of innocent Afghan citizens by the foreign forces, the US military immunity, and the US lack of attention to Pakistan’s support of the Taliban and the Haqqani network. In response to Karzai's stance, Obama threatened to withdraw all the US troops from Afghanistan. Karzai made the signing of the security pact subject to the Loya Jirga approval. However, after the approval of Loya Jirga, Karzai again refused to sign the deal. Obama called for the signing of the agreement and said that the US military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 completely depends on the approval of the pact by the “new Afghan government”. Following the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG) in Afghanistan, the Washington-Kabul Security Pact was signed in August 2014 by the new government. The main focus of the agreement was on granting judicial immunity to the US troops and approving the presence of 10,000 US troops at nine US military bases in Kabul, Bagram, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Gardez, Kandahar, Helmand, Shindand, and Herat.
c) The killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, then leader of the Afghan Taliban
With assassination of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in 2016, Obama described the incident as a turning point in Afghanistan’s path towards peace and stability. He reiterated that the United States had killed a Taliban leader who was carrying out attacks against the Afghan and coalition forces and had joined extremist groups such as al-Qaeda. The United States believed that Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour had always prevented the Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks. Despite his promise to withdraw the U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Obama did not present a plan for withdrawal of all troops in near future and left the decision to the next U.S. president. In fact, senior U.S. military officials have concluded that the reduction of the US troops in Afghanistan is not in Washington's interests. For that reason, the Americans abandoned the option of complete withdrawal and decided to continue their operations in Afghanistan.
2-3- Donald Trump's strategy towards Afghanistan
The new U.S. strategy towards Afghanistan was announced on August 21, 2017, by Donald Trump. The most important factors of the new policy were: continuing the presence of U.S forces in Afghanistan and increasing the number of them, increasing the authority of the U.S. officials in attacks against the Taliban and other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, keeping the Taliban forces at the negotiating table, strengthening the Afghan security forces, emphasizing the Afghan government's fight against corruption and Implementing reforms, insisting the US non-interference policy in the nation-state building process, criticizing Pakistan’s support of the terrorist groups, and inviting India to play a greater role in Afghanistan.
In his strategy, Trump rejected the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, which was originally Obama's policy. He said that Washington does not set a time to leave Afghanistan and does not announce its movements to the enemy. Trump also said that leaving Afghanistan would be based on circumstances, not on a timetable. Trump stated that the U.S will stay in Afghanistan until al-Qaeda and the ISIS are destroyed and will not allow the Taliban to come to power and make Afghanistan a safe haven for the anti-US terrorist groups.
Another policy announced by Trump was the reinforcement of the Afghan security forces. He stressed that the U.S. will strengthen the Afghan security forces to the extent that they can independently maintain their country’s peace and security.
Trump stressed that the US will not sign a blank check for Afghanistan. It means that all the supports would be time-based and conditional. One of the conditions laid down by Trump, like his predecessors, was the Afghan government's fight against corruption and implement reforms. Trump stated that the main reason for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is fight against the enemies and Washington has nothing to do with the state-nation process. That is why he said that this is the Afghan citizens who should decide for themselves how to live. While George W. Bush and Obama insisted on this process and also forming Afghanistan’s democracy, Trump made no comment about the structure of the government or democracy in Afghanistan. One of the most important issues that Trump, unlike his predecessors, addressed more openly was Pakistan. Trump noted that the U.S has given billions of dollars to Pakistan, but the country is harboring groups that plan to kill our soldiers. Meanwhile, Trump praised India's cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan and asked New Delhi to play a more significant role.
Over time and regarding the military stalemate in Afghanistan, Trump administration in July 2018 ordered the start of the direct talks with the Taliban without the presence of the Afghan government. This was a significant U-turn, because the previous US policy was to support an Afghan-led and Afghan - owned peace process. In fact, Trump was trying to absorb a Part of the so-called moderate Taliban who saw their interests in participating in the peace process and negotiating with the government, and at the same time continue to fight against the radical members who insisted on continuing the fight against American forces. This policy was implemented directly through attacks by the U.S. forces and indirectly through supporting the ISIS and pressuring Islamabad to stop helping the radical Taliban. In September 2018, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. Since then, Khalilzad has held several meetings with the Taliban representatives to achieve a peace agreement. Finally in the winter of 2020, the peace agreement was signed.
3- The US-Taliban talks and the peace agreement
The Afghan peace talks officially began during Donald Trump's first term in office in September 2018 between Zalmay Khalilzad as the senior US envoy, and the representatives of the Taliban. In February 2020, a peace agreement was finally signed between the parties. Reportedly, in the early stages of the US-Taliban talks, while the Taliban was insisting on setting a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. first called for the start of intra-Afghan talks as well as a ceasefire in Afghanistan. Following the ninth round of the US-Taliban talks in Doha in late August and early September 2019, the news of an agreement over formation of an interim government for a 14-months term and the postponement of Afghanistan‘s presidential election was announced. But, after a Taliban attack near the US embassy in Kabul and the death of an American soldier, Trump announced the end of the peace talks with the Taliban.
The negotiations were resumed after Trump's visit to Afghanistan in December 2019, while again were stopped due to a Taliban attack on a health center near a U.S. airbase in Bagram in December. But the two sides began their talks once again after the Taliban agreed to reduce violence and finally, a document named as the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan was signed between the United States and the Taliban on February 29, 2020.Meanwhile, Washington Immediately said that it does not recognize the Islamic Emirate as the government and only would accept the "Taliban Group" title. The intra-Afghans talks were also scheduled to begin on March 10. According to the document signed by the Taliban and U.S. representatives, Washington committed to:
* stop all the military operations against the Taliban;
* withdraw all the American and international forces from Afghanistan, and hand over the military bases within fourteen months;
* lift all the sanctions against the Taliban within the next six months; and
* persuade the Kabul government to release about 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
But these commitments were conditional on the Taliban fulfilling their commitments, including:
* reducing the level of violence in Afghanistan for a week;
* stopping military operations against the US and foreign forces;
* starting intra- Afghan talks within ten days in a bid to achieve ceasefire and peace; and
* preventing other terrorist groups from using Afghanistan’s territory against the interests of the United States and its allies.
4- Washington’s goals in Afghan peace talks
The main goals of the United States in peace talks with the Taliban include:
4-1- Focus on a political approach rather thana military one
The protracted war in Afghanistan, the increase of U.S casualties, the huge financial costs of the war, the structural problems of Afghanistan’s establishment, the failure of the state-nation building project, Washington’s inability to defeat the Taliban definitively, Afghanistan's neighbors (who are sometimes considered rivals of the U.S.) benefit from this country situation, at the expense of the United States, the necessity of curbing China’s growing power, and etc., have made many American analysts to come to the conclusion that the White House should change its strategy and focus over a political approach rather than a military one. This change in approach, however, should not be interpreted as if Afghanistan's strategic importance to the U.S has diminished. But, it rather means that the tools by which the United States achieves its goals have changed.
4-2- Withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan
During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump promised to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan. After taking the power, he came to the conclusion that there is no possibility of a definitive defeat of the Taliban and, thus, ordered the beginning of the official talks with the Taliban in a bid to bring them into a political process and name this as an achievement of his government in Afghanistan. He has promised to resolve the problem of Afghanistan and withdraw all the US troops from there. So, this could be a privilege in the 2020 election and also has a special place in the American domestic arena.
4-3- Consolidatethe U.S. long-term presence in Afghanistan
Another goal was to secure the US presence in Afghanistan. Even if the Taliban obtain part of Afghanistan’s government in the future and even if they take full control of the government, the Americans must be able to continue their presence in the country. The United States wants to reduce its costs and forces in Afghanistan and simultaneously pursue its goals in the region. Therefore, if this happens, the nature of the US presence in Afghanistan will change from military to intelligence-security.
4-4- Control the Taliban's relationship with China, Russia and Iran
Controlling the Taliban's relationship with China, Russia and Iran in line with the US interests in Afghanistan and preserving the US interests during the intra-Afghan talks are another two main objectives.
5- International and regional views towards the US approach in the Afghan peace process
Given the internal political crisis over formation of an inclusive government, the dispute between the Kabul government and the Taliban over the release of prisoners, and the continuation of military clashes between the government and the Taliban, we can clearly predict that the intra-Afghan talks would be much longer than negotiations between the United States and the Taliban.
Of course, the Trump administration's main goal was to reach an agreement with the Taliban in order to withdraw its forces and guarantee the activities of the US bases and also use of this agreement during the 2020 presidential campaign – the goals that Khalilzad was able to implement through signing a peace agreement in Afghanistan, the content of many of which is still hidden. But given the impacts of Afghanistan’s developments on Russia, China and Iran (as rivals and enemies of the United States) and also the necessity of other countries’ participation in providing the security costs of Afghanistan, the United States decided to contain China and Russia and put more pressure on Iran in order to involve them in Afghanistan’s problems and, therefore, increase their costs.
In fact, the Trump administration's goal is to send a message to other actors inside Afghanistan that they should also pay their own share of costs. The pressures are intended to show that insecurity will return to the region if the United States withdraws. Therefore, if other countries want to avoid insecurity in Afghanistan and also in the region, they must pay their share.
Other countries in the region and beyond also have their own attitudes about Washington’s approach in the Afghan peace process, which will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
5-1- Pakistan’s view
Pakistan has always emphasized that a stable, peaceful, and independent Afghanistan would also be in Islamabad's best interests. But, its practical measures have shown that it is eager to use Afghanistan’s instability, caused by the activities of the terrorist groups, as a deterrent against the expansion of India's presence in Afghanistan and also prevent the Kabul government from pursuing the Durand Line issue. Even during the peace talks, the United States could not ignore the role of Islamabad due to its influence over the Taliban and despite Trump's initial threats, the U.S. administration began to use Pakistan’s good relations with the Taliban leaders to advance the talks. The signing of a peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States - which led to an increase in the Taliban's weight, position and legitimacy in Afghanistan - satisfied Pakistan; because it will enable Islamabad to pursue its goals not only through informal channels, but also through the Taliban in power.
It is clear that India (as an enemy of Pakistan) knows that the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s government and Pakistan's influence on this group will impose further restrictions on New Delhi's role in the country. It seems that the agreement between the Taliban and the United States is meant to secure Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan. Also, during the intra-Afghan talks, which is part of the agreement between the Taliban and the United States, the Taliban will likely try to weaken the role of Pakistan's rivals in Afghanistan (including Iran and India). Meanwhile, given the opposition of some radical elements of the Taliban to the agreement with the U.S., they will probably try to continue their operations via other groups such as the ISKP. But, in that case Pakistan still has the ability to manage and use them for its own purposes. Perhaps one of the reasons for Khalilzad's trips to Pakistan is to use Islamabad’s influence on the Taliban for reduction of violence in Afghanistan, something that Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly mentioned as a major challenge for peace.
5-2- India’s view
From India's point of view, Afghanistan is a South Asian country which due to its developments - especially regarding extremism, terrorism, the presence of the foreign forces and Secondary countries intervention - is very important for New Delhi. Trump’s strategy in Afghanistan and his invitation from India to play a more significant role in Afghanistan, provided an opportunity for India to increase its presence in Afghanistan. However, the U.S. negotiations with the Taliban and the subsequent peace agreement which led to the acceptance of the Taliban's role in Afghanistan, concerned India for two reasons: First, because the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will weaken India's strategic investments in this country, and second, because India is well aware of the background and depth of the Taliban's relations with Pakistan as well as the negative impacts of the group's rise on India's security, especially Kashmir. For these reasons, India is not happy with the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan.
So, given some issues such as India's past cooperation with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, the possibility of India's allies being marginalized in Afghanistan due to the Taliban's totalitarian nature, Pakistan's influence on the Taliban's post-peace agenda, and the Taliban’s support for anti-Indian terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, it is hard to imagine a good relationship between India and the Taliban in future. Khalilzad recently spoke with the Indian foreign minister about the Afghan peace process and welcomed India's participation in the regional and international efforts for a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. It is obvious that by engaging regional countries as part of the Afghan peace process, the United States wants to use India's influence over some Afghan politicians in order to resolve the political crisis in Kabul and form a comprehensive government. Given its good relations with the current Afghan government and the importance of safeguarding its interests during the intra-Afghan talks, New Delhi will also try to resolve the current political crisis in a way that does not weaken the central government and further strengthen the Taliban.
5-3- Iran’s view
Due to Iran and Afghanistan’s neighborhood, positive or negative developments of Afghanistan will also affect Iran. Afghanistan's stability, peace, and development are in Iran's interest. A stronger and more stable government in Afghanistan will lead to a more logical, stable, and robust Tehran-Kabul relation, and therefore, the flow of migration, drug trafficking, and border insecurity will decrease. Given the U.S. strategy to reduce Iran's influence in the regional equations as well as the history of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the UAE's relations with the Taliban, the U.S. and its allies will seek to decrease Iran's influence in Afghanistan following a peace agreement with the Taliban. While Iran has softened its stance on the Taliban in the recent years, this does not mean that Tehran is eager to establish a strategic relationship with the Taliban and wants the Taliban to completely seize the power. Iran has always supported the peace process in Afghanistan, because if this process leads to a relative stability, Tehran's interests will also be served. In fact, it would be desirable for Iran to see a balanced, multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan which includes even Hazaras and Tajiks. From Tehran's point of view, a lasting peace agreement in Afghanistan can be achieved only through the withdrawal of the foreign troops, holding the intra-Afghan talks, and consideration of the views of Afghanistan's neighbors. As the future presence of the US troops in Afghanistan is unclear and the US military bases are still operating, Iran's interests in Afghanistan will be challenged. Tehran does not like to see the continuation of the current political crisis as well as the weakening of the central government. For that reason, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has mediated between Ghani and Abdullah to help the advance of intra-Afghan negotiations.
5-4- Russia’s view
Russia’s support for the Taliban has been widely criticized by the US officials in the recent years. Although the Russians say that they are encouraging the Taliban towards the peace talks, Russia’s military aid to the group during the fight against the U.S., aroused Washington’s protest. Following the peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, Moscow also decided to pursue its own political relations with the group. The geographical proximity of the Central Asian countries to Afghanistan and its influence over these countries, the presence of the ISKP in Afghanistan and its threats against Russia's interests, the U.S. possible threats against Russia’s interests, and so on, has caused the Kremlin to follow the issue of relationship with the Taliban more seriously. Hosting the intra-Afghan peace talks as well as Moscow’s emphasis over the necessity of Afghan’s participation in the peace process clearly showed that the Russian officials are seeking to play an active role in Afghanistan’s future. Following the signing of a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban, Russia announced that it welcomes the withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan but a planned and responsible departure. Russia's main concern in Afghanistan is insecurity, which will definitely spread to the Central Asian republics and activates other terrorist groups (mainly in Chechen and Caucasian). This concern has been exacerbated by the announcement of the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan and possible spread of insecurity. That is why the Kremlin consistently insists that this withdrawal should be responsible. So, it seems that any government (of any ethnicity or composition) that can prevent insecurity in the Near Abroad countries will have Russia’s support. Therefore, Russia backs the resolution of the current political crisis in Afghanistan as well as the intra-Afghan talks which are aimed at determining the political future of the country, and is ready to mediate between Afghans.
5-5- China’s view
After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 - although the US military presence near China's borders was not a good thing to Beijing - China benefitted from the U.S. fight against some anti-Chinese terrorist groups and also the excessive financial and human costs the US was forced to pay in this way.
China, like Russia, does not welcome insecurity and instability in Afghanistan, because this would hurt Beijing's economic interests and will spread insecurity to other regions such as China’s Xinjiang. That is why China began to persuade the Taliban to participate in the peace talks. After the peace agreement, China which believes that the agreement is designed to serve the US own interests, has repeatedly emphasized that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan must be responsible. Being aware of the complex nature of the intra-Afghan talks, Beijing is not optimistic about the outcome and is concerned about its possible failure, which can deteriorate Afghanistan’s security. Although the strategic relationship between Beijing and Islamabad, in the light of Pakistan's relationship with the Taliban, could indirectly contribute to China's influence in Afghanistan, It does not seem that China willing to enter the Afghan arena and pay exorbitant costs. China rather wants to see a multilateral process in which many regional countries and international entities, including the United Nations, are participating.