By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. intent on pressuring Russia, China, Iran by Afghanistan card: professor

September 8, 2021 - 17:57

TEHRAN - Nader Entessar, a professor of political science from the University of South Alabama, says that the U.S. is trying to pressure its foes through its exit from Afghanistan.

“The U.S. believes that the more pressure China, Russia, and Iran feel due to uncertainties in Afghanistan, the better Washington and its regional allies will be,” Entessar tells the Tehran Times.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was fraught with heartbreaking scenes, especially when some people tried to cling to moving U.S. airplanes.

Some American military and political figures expect chaos and civil war in Afghanistan due to the U.S.'s hasty exit from the country.

There is no doubt that instability in Afghanistan would constitute a threat for its neighbors and the region in its entirety.

“The deteriorating and still uncertain future of Afghanistan presents political, economic, and security challenges to China, Russia, and Iran,” Entessar remarks.

“Now that the U.S. has withdrawn its military forces from Afghanistan, it is not far-fetched to argue, as some analysts already have done, that the U.S. may benefit from the curveball that has been thrown at its adversaries due to Washington's about-face in Afghanistan,” he notes.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How does the American public view the U.S. exit from Afghanistan? 

A: On the one hand, the American public has long favored U.S. military disengagement from Afghanistan.  On the other hand, the public has demonstrated unease about the modality of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Many recent polls in the United States reflect this view.  Today, President Joe Biden's approval rating hovers around 44 percent.  This is one of the lowest, if not the lowest, approval ratings for Biden since he assumed the presidency.  Also, part of the U.S. public's ambivalence towards U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan stems from the fact that the U.S. public has been conditioned to believe that the country's military is omnipotent and thus should never fail to achieve its stated goals.

Q: While former U.S. President Donald Trump is slamming Biden's performance in Afghanistan, many commentators say that the current administration is following exactly Trump's road map in Afghanistan. What is your comment?

A: Donald Trump and the Republican establishment in general, have taken a cynical approach to Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan.  They conveniently ignore the fact that it was the Trump administration that signed an agreement with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar on February 29, 2020, that committed the United States to withdraw its forces and leave Afghanistan.  What Biden has done is simply to implement the Trump administration's agreement.  The full text of the U.S.-Taliban agreement is now available for everyone to read.

“The reactions of Iran, China, and Russia to developments in Afghanistan will be measured and not hasty.”  Q: Why does Washington refuse to cooperate with its bitter rivals such as China, Russia, and Iran in critical issues like Afghanistan? 

A: The deteriorating and still uncertain future of Afghanistan presents political, economic, and security challenges to China, Russia, and Iran.  Now that the U.S. has withdrawn its military forces from Afghanistan, it is not far-fetched to argue, as some analysts already have done, that the U.S. may benefit from the curveball that has been thrown at its adversaries due to Washington's about-face in Afghanistan.   In other words,  the U.S. believes that the more pressure China, Russia, and Iran feel due to uncertainties in Afghanistan, the better Washington and its regional allies will be.  This may be a shortsighted view.  After all, what goes on in Afghanistan does not stay in Afghanistan.    

Q: How do you see the future of Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal? Do you expect China or Russia to take the lead in Afghanistan under Taliban rule?

A: If by "taking the lead" in Afghanistan you mean taking a pro-active military approach towards Afghanistan, I don't see that happening.  China, Russia, and Iran have overlapping as well as divergent interests in Afghanistan and the broader Central Asia.  I suspect that each of these three countries will cooperate with each other but they will also calibrate their individual policies based on their own perceived national interests.  Their reactions to developments in Afghanistan will be measured and not hasty.  All of these three countries have had very long historical, political, and cultural ties to Afghanistan and have a long-term view of the region's sociopolitical developments that will inform their respective policy choices.

Q: Is it possible that U.S. forces come back to Afghanistan if the situation degenerates into a catastrophe?

A: The likelihood of U.S. ground forces coming back to Afghanistan is very low.  After the enormous costs of the Afghan war and the disastrous consequences of America's longest war, I don't see the return of large contingents of U.S. military forces to Afghanistan.  However, America's indirect military involvement in and leverage over Afghanistan may persist for some time.  This leverage can be exercised through intelligence and undercover public/private operatives in Afghanistan, or, if need be, via drone, missile, and other types of aerial military operations.
 

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