Geopolitics

Taliban And Iran: The Impossible Alliance May Already Be Crumbling

After the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban rulers retook control of Afghanistan, there were initial, friendly signals exchanged with Iran's Shia regime. But a recent border skirmish recalls tensions from the 1990s, when Iran massed troops on the Afghan frontier.

The clashes reported this week from the border between Iran and Afghanistan were perhaps inevitable.

There are so far scant details on what triggered the flare up on Wednesday between Iranian border forces and Taliban fighters, near the district of Hirmand in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province. Still, footage posted on social media indicated the exchange of fire was fairly intense, with troops on both sides using both light and heavy weaponry.

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Taliban Decree On Women, Averted Shutdown, Metal Planet

👋 Sannu!*

Welcome to Friday, where the Taliban issue a decree on women’s rights, the U.S. avoids another government shutdown, and we discover the most metallic planet ever. Delhi-based news website The Wire also suggests Indians should pause before any nationalistic boasting about the choice of Parag Agarwal as new Twitter CEO.

[*Hausa - Nigeria & Niger]

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From Taliban To Taiwan, The Limits Of Military Power

China is beefing up its military arsenal, with Taiwan as its target. However, as with the continued difficulty to control the terrain in Afghanistan, we increasingly see that military power is far from ensuring the hegemony hoped for by stronger parties.

-Analysis-

PARIS — "How many divisions does the Pope have?" once famously asked Joseph Stalin, highlighting that despite religious or political authority, military force can always prevail in geopolitics. However, in the 21st century, one can legitimately ask what military force is for.

In Afghanistan, more than three months after the Taliban's lightning victory, terrorist violence continues. It seems that members of the defeated regular army have joined the ranks of the "fundamentalist international" to continue the fight against the Taliban. In short, military victory on the ground has not solved anything. The Taliban face the resilience of those nostalgic for freedom and progress on the one hand, and Islamic fanatics on the other.

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Ghosts Of Defeat Inside Deserted NATO Base In Afghanistan

The new Taliban commander shows reporters from Die Welt around the deserted Camp Marmal, the German army's former headquarters in Afghanistan.

Fries, beer and barbecued meat. That's what was on the menu every year when the German troops stationed at Camp Marmal celebrated German Unity Day. "That was always a special day," remembers Mohammed Sayed (names have been changed to protect identities), who worked as an interpreter for the German army.

"It was a big celebration," he says, with a wistful look. "Ambassadors from other countries came to visit, as well as governors from various provinces in Afghanistan." This year, at Camp Marmal near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, there was no Oct. 3 holiday celebration in sight.

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Ideas
Mihir Chitre

Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam

Born some eight centuries ago, the famed poet and philosopher Rumi offered ideas on religion that bear little resemblance to the brand of Islam being imposed right now in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime.

Among the various Afghan cities that the Taliban has invaded and apparently "reclaimed" in recent weeks is Balkh, a town near the country's north-western border. Interestingly, it was there, about 800 years ago, that a man called Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, was born.

Some see the grotesque exhibitionism of the Taliban advance as a celebration of Islam or a "going back to the roots" campaign. As if followers of Islam were always like this, as if every willing Muslim always propagated austerity and oppressiveness. As if it was always meant to be this way and any shred of liberalism was a digression from the quest of the religion.

In fact, a look at the history of the religion — and of the region — tells a different story, which is why there's no better time than now to rediscover the wisdom of the poet Rumi, but without doing away with its religious context.

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Migrant Lives
Benedetta Zocchi

On The Border Of Bosnia: Voices Of Afghan Migrants

As the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan, the European Union co-signed a joint statement with dozens of nations agreeing that "the Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity" and that the international community was "ready to assist them".

As someone who has been researching the refugee crisis on Europe's borders for years, I found the statement surprising. Before it was making bold statements about events in Kabul, the EU had spent years failing to help thousands of Afghans seeking help at its borders.

Since 2015, more than 570,000 Afghan citizens have sought protection in the EU. Thousands of them remain stuck in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after having been pushed back by the Croatian police catching them on the EU border.

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Geopolitics
Daniel García-Peña

Like Afghan War, The U.S. War On Drugs Must End

The United States has long dictated policy regarding narcotics, and Colombia, in particular, has paid a heavy price. The current presidential race is an opportunity to shift course and prioritize the welfare of everyday people.

-OpEd-

More than 20 years ago, I read a headline in the satirical U.S. newspaper The Onion declaring "Drugs Win Drug War." It would be an appropriate headline for this item too, but not as a joke. As the years have shown, it's an accurate description of reality.

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Geopolitics
Ritu Mahendru

Hide Or Flee? LGBTQ Afghans Fear Taliban Will Kill Them

While life was not easy under the former Afghan government, members of the LGBTQ+ community had relatively more freedom and formal support groups that helped them. That has changed now, with potentially grave consequences.

KABUL — It's 2 a.m. in the morning in Kabul when my phone rings. "The taxi driver had a fight with me and dropped me on the main road." I could hear gunshots, blazing sirens and someone shouting in the background "Boro, izazat nist (Move on, you're not allowed)."

"I don't know what I should do," says Sheila, bursting into tears. Her voice cracks, but I sense she is still clinging on to hope for a better future. Sheila is trying to get to Kabul airport in the middle of the night, without success. A transgender woman, she informs me that she "has lost passion for life."

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Geopolitics
Charles Kurzman

20 Years After 9/11, Islamic Terrorists Struggle To Recruit

Both al-Qaeda and ISIS openly complain about the difficulty in finding new members ready to give everything for the cause.

Al-Qaeda was planning two sets of terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. On Sept. 11, 2021, as Americans commemorate and mourn the lives lost that Tuesday morning 20 years ago, it is important to remember the second plot as well – the attacks that didn't happen.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the organizer of the 9/11 operation, originally envisioned simultaneous attacks on the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States. He bragged about having had dozens of recruits to choose from.

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Geopolitics
Kayhan London

Reports: U.S. Arms Abandoned In Afghanistan Moved To Iran

Weaponry belonging to the Afghan army is moving into Iran, though it is not clear if it is smuggled, or moved in a deal between the Taliban and Iran's regime.

LONDON — With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, much of the U.S.-supplied military hardware formerly used by the country's armed forces have fallen into their hands. This terrorist group that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, and gave refuge to other terrorists, especially al-Qaeda, now has its hands on advanced military weaponry and know-how.

It has also become clear that neighboring Iran was keen and ready to get its own hands on this material, either to use directly or to copy the weapon design.

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Geopolitics
Mohammadreza Hosseini

Afghan Debacle Reminds Us That Finance Rules The World

The fall of the Afghan national government may be a calamity for the Afghans but not for the world's big-money interests, which prefer to deal with ruthless, incompetent regimes that will sell out their countries.

-OpEd-

LONDON — The world is still in shock from the sudden departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the collapse of its vast, national army, and the Taliban overrunning the country within days before an almost coordinated silence among governments and media.

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Geopolitics
Michael Blake

The Ethics of the U.S. Pullout

Political philosophy sheds some light on the United States' moral responsibility in Afghanistan

Chaotic scenes in Kabul accompanied the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The fundamentalist Islamic group was able to retake power after President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw the remaining U.S. troops from the country.

The withdrawal brings to a close nearly 20 years of American military presence in Afghanistan.

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Geopolitics
Ghazal Golshiri

Next In Kabul: Locals Brace For Taliban Rule

In the western part of the Afghan capital, inhabitants live in fear, but they are still not prepared to accept Taliban takeover.

As the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday and President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan, Reuters reported that the Islamist militants are close to taking over the country two decades after they were overthrown by a U.S.-led invasion. Over the past week Le Monde spoke with locals in the Afghan capital about their fears of what Taliban rule would mean:

KABUL — As you enter Pule Surkh cultural center's cafe in a western district of Kabul, the reality of daily life in Afghanistan hits you immediately. The entrance walls are adorned with a dozen photos of young women and men, some smiling, some wearing serious faces, eyes fixed on the camera lens.

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Geopolitics
Kirill Krivosheev

As U.S. Pulls Out Of Afghanistan, Moscow Eyes Power Vacuum

To succeed in withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan White House will need the active help of the Central Asian countries. However, with these post-Soviet republics in play, Russia wants a say.

MOSCOWWe've just witnessed several days of speculation that the planned Sep. 11 final withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan might happen even earlier, after the main Bagram airbase was rapidly emptied. But that speculation was dispelled first by President Joe Biden and then by Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, who vowed an "orderly drawdown" over the coming weeks.

In preparation for the end of the operation, Washington has needed to coordinate with the post-Soviet republics that border Afghanistan, namely Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. On July 1, the foreign ministers of these countries, Abdulaziz Kamilov and Sirodjiddin Mukhriddin met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The official reports from these meetings contain lengthy statements about "the importance of bilateral relations' as well as "efforts to achieve sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan." Meanwhile, Bloomberg and Reuters news agencies have both quoted State Department sources saying that Washington made a very concrete request: the United States asked Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, along with nearby Kazakhstan, to offer haven to some 9,000 Afghans who cooperated with NATO and may now be in danger. It would be a temporary asylum, while these people awaited approval for American visas.

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Geopolitics
Sergey Strokan

What The U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan Means For Russia

Russian authorities have more than a few questions to face, including where U.S. forces may relocate after exiting the troubled, central-Asian republic.

-Analysis-

MOSCOW — The May 8 terrorist attack in Kabul that left more than 80 people dead, many of them school girls between the ages of 11 and 15, is a gruesome reminder of the dangers ahead as the United States moves forward with its plan to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.

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Geopolitics
Afrasiab Khattak

The Taliban Is More Dangerous Than Ever

As the U.S. government pivots its foreign policy, the Taliban is ramping up plans to reestablish a totalitarian state. Regional support for a sovereign Afghan government has never been more urgent.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — While most of the Western media coverage around the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has focused on how this historic moment affects the interests of the United States and its transatlantic allies, the real effects of the U.S. departure will be most acutely felt by Afghanistan and its neighbors — particularly China, India and Russia, powers that will shape the future of a region that houses most of humanity.

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