For years, Afghanistan has been the unconquerable land of sharp, rugged mountains and stunning terrain; the crown of Central Asia. It lies on the borders of Pakistan, China and Iran, all three of which have political significance for the United States. Afghanistan is also a trade corridor for the Middle East and South Asia and is extremely valuable for China’s economic growth and their ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. Through the years, Afghanistan has been named the “Graveyard of Empires”, the prize of “the Great Game” and the centre stage for what is considered “War at the top of the World”. As this war comes to a close, yet again, one must see how the Taliban will affect not only the geopolitics in the region but the rest of the world.
On August 15th 2021, the Taliban gained complete control of Afghanistan. The United States has pulled out their troops, ending the 20-year Afghan war and a failed attempt to enact democracy. The decision to withdraw has now left Afghanistan in a state of total chaos and anarchy. The economy is weak, poverty is rampant and the destruction left behind has scarred Afghanistan’s urban population. A recent resolution made by the Taliban has led to the shutdown of girls’ education. Current statistics show that only 37% of young girls are literate while men are at a 66% literacy rate. Without women being allowed to work and obtain a stable income, both unemployment and poverty rates are expected to rise. In 2020, 47.3% of Afghanistan was underneath the poverty line and based on Afghanistan’s current situation, these numbers are expected to rise.
Afghanistan’s economy largely relies on international support from the western nations and mostly allies of the United States. As this source of funding dries up, the Taliban will have to find ways to keep sustaining their economy. Other than the western allies, Afghanistan relies on China’s support and given the current vacuum China could use Afghanistan’s valuable trade routes and strategic location to its advantage, expanding its group of allies and benefitting not just Afghanistan but themselves as well.
Today, Afghanistan has 14 major ethnic groups among several other minority groups that branch out from these umbrella terms. With such a variety of ethnicities, each with their own views and obligations, the Taliban will have to try to be inclusive while governing these populations. In the past, the Taliban have been seen to violently exclude minority groups. An example of this is the Hazara populations who have been victims of genocide and massacres directed by the Taliban. The lack of proper administration can lead to violent uprisings and protests previously seen across Afghanistan’s many states. These uprisings like before, will disrupt Afghanistan’s people and this time around, the excess amount of weaponry, these revolts could deeply damage Afghanistan’s turbulent unity.
Another effect the Taliban has on Afghanistan and its region is the large number of refugees that are exiting the country. In 2020, Pakistan had a large intake of 1.45 million Afghan refugees while neighbouring Iran took in a total of 780,000 refugees. These refugees are generally from the urbanized capital of Kabul or are ethnic populations escaping the Taliban’s rule. These include the Pashtuns, Hazaras and Tajiks. The refugees brought in to other countries also seem to have a habit of disrupting the communities of which they joined. Afghan refugees in Northern Pakistan have also been known to disrupt the communities along the disputed border of Kashmir. Not only that but the influx of refugees puts an immense amount of pressure on a country’s economy to sustain the sizable number of new citizens.
To conclude, I believe that the Taliban will change the political dice of the world. The irrational exodus by the US has affected how its allies see its commitments and it allows China to expand its trade and economic might in the region. The new Taliban have a chance to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy and create prosperity for its people, but their actions do show a similar trend as seen in the past. In my view, the threat may be significantly worse than it was in the past. The Taliban may still be “tribal” in some ways however the 20 years of War and funding from the United States has left them with advanced weapons and ammunition. The world may see the same Taliban however we are now dealing with a ‘Weaponized Afghanistan’.