As the U.S. struggles to get its citizens out of Afghanistan amid a blitzkrieg Taliban takeover, other nations rush to fill the power vacuum. Pakistan congratulates the Taliban for breaking the ''shackles of slavery,'' Iran has resumed fuel exports to the nation, and China says it’s ''ready to develop good-neighborliness and friendly cooperation'' with Afghanistan’s new government.
While all this back-patting and lauding seems genuine on the surface, the world — but specifically the U.S. — needs to remember a key political maneuver afoot: ''the enemy of my enemy is my friend.''
Each of these nations is right to be worried about security concerns in the country with which they share a border, but a twenty-year hiatus from power means that the Taliban will not only need to maintain control of Afghanistan, but provide basic human and government infrastructure as well; this is something that will prove to be even harder to do given that the U.S. has frozen a majority of Afghan assets.
This lack of capability on the part of the Taliban may prove to be an opportunity for rival nations, but especially for the CCP.
The greatest long-term threat to the United States not only in the region, but globally, will be the friendly hand of China, but nothing comes for free from Xi-Jinping. The infamous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will likely see a new path through Afghanistan, not necessarily in the form of oil, but in untapped mineral deposits.
In 2010, the U.S. discovered nearly $1 trillion in these deposits, including huge amounts of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and most importantly, lithium, which is a key component in batteries used by electric vehicles and solar panels. For the U.S., it was too risky to engage in mining operations while under threat from an insurgency, but China will likely be able to ''trade'' for it.
By providing the Taliban with engineers and infrastructure in exchange for a lion's share of the mineral wealth, China gains even more control over the global supply of rare earth materials — something it already controls 85% of — and more control means more power.
It’s certainly better to make friends than foes, but through the reliable methods of capitalism, China can create Afghani dependency on its services and in doing so the Taliban will likely be inclined to be sensitive to China’s future security concerns.
China is acting both quietly and rapidly to position itself into pole position, but publicly, they will enter graciously with hospitality, resources, food and medicine for the people of Afghanistan.
China will, of course, need a place to deploy its humanitarian deeds, perhaps a few small airfields or maybe even an abandoned American base or two, and those locations will need new road to connect them, which China will be happy to provide. Once completed, those roads will need maintenance structures, and of course security for those humanitarian facilities, and so on and so forth; piece by piece, brick by brick, China will move in and never leave.
In addition to the basic infrastructure requirements, Afghanistan is at war, and had been long before the U.S. arrived. This is important, because war is expensive — and so is maintaining the ability to wage it.
The United States' rapid departure from Afghanistan meant the Taliban seized billions worth of military equipment including four C-130 transport aircraft, 23 A-29 turboprop ground-attack aircraft, 45 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and 50 smaller MD 530 attack helicopters, not to mention thousands of rifles, specialized combat equipment, and all the bells and whistles that the Taliban will need to keep operational.
To do so will require intense maintenance and expertise of which the Taliban likely do not have, but the Chinese certainly do.
This lack of expertise and capability coupled with the seizure of 99.8% of Afghanistan’s invested assets (gold, bonds, cash) means that the Taliban will likely become desperate for help, and China knows how to capitalize on desperation.
While Afghanistan could turn to other neighboring nations for support, those countries may not be as quick to help as they won’t want to ''bite the hand that feeds them.'' China has invested over $62 billion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and the CCP’s multi-billion 25-year partnership with Iran is underway.
This is the long game that Beijing is playing, and America’s short-term strategy which seems to change each election cycle pales in comparison. The CCP looks at the globe as a chessboard and has managed to buy its way into power throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Through the Taliban, the CCP stands to profit economically, gain security and stability, and forge new allegiances with allies that hate the U.S. with even more passion than it does.
The void left by the result of U.S. policy may now offer China the ability to put an entire country into its pocket in one fell swoop and the nation considered the ''graveyard of empires'' may have just met its match.
Seth Denson is a business & market analyst, author and entrepreneur. He co-founded one of the nation's most successful consulting firms and authored the best-selling book, "The Cure: A Blueprint for Solving America's Healthcare Crisis." Read Seth Denson's Reports — More Here.
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