With US withdrawal from Afghanistan, fears of another ‘Great Game’ sequel

Earlier this month, the Biden administration confirmed its intent to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year. With NATO announcing its decision to follow suit, Afghanistan will soon be free of foreign forces for the first time in the 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The impact of this shift will be compounded by the Taliban’s rise in power.

Earlier this year, the Council for Foreign Relations asserted that the Taliban is currently at its strongest compared to any other point since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The Taliban now controls approximately 19% of districts in Afghanistan with the government controlling another 33% and the rest being contested between the two factions.

The Taliban have thus far largely ignored the terms of the Doha treaty which marked a historic settlement between itself and the United States, leading to worries of increased insurgency in the country and the impending risk of civil war. Several regional observers also fear that the tacit support of Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran for the Taliban will legitimise its role and force the current Ghani administration to cede power to it.

Due to its geographical positioning and influence on regional stability, the political future of Afghanistan will be of considerable significance to several nations with competing sets of interests as well as to pan-Asian relations as a whole. For many, the next round of the ‘great game’ is about to begin.

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