The Critical Importance of Afghanistan in Regional Projects

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Afghanistan, which has been the scene of conflicts, wars, interventions and terrorist attacks for more than 40 years, serves as an important bridge between Central and South Asia. For this reason, a problem or threat in the country in question creates an impact beyond Afghanistan’s borders. Particularly Central Asia and, to a lesser extent, South Asia are affected by this. In addition, with the changing dynamics in the recent period, Eurasia is also affected by Afghanistan-centered developments in a broad sense.

The conflict process that Afghanistan went through has led to two main effects on the basis of projects. First of all, projects that did not include Afghanistan were tried to be realized. In other words, a network has been developed over the surrounding countries because it is thought that this country cannot be used due to security threats. On the other hand, projects that could not be started, completed or implemented, even though they involve Afghanistan, were also signed. The most important factor affecting the outcome of the projects in question was the uncertainty in Afghanistan.

On August 15, 2021, the Taliban dominated Afghanistan, and today, the uncertainties and terrorist threats in the country continue. Because the administration appointed by the Taliban has not yet been recognized by any state. In addition, although the conflicts between states and various groups in the region have decreased significantly, terrorist organizations continue their existence. The most important example of this is the so-called Emirate of Khorasan (ISKP) of the terrorist organization Devlet al-Iraq and al-Sham (DEAS). The terrorist organization ISKP, with its attack on a hotel in Kabul on 12 December 2022, led China to call on its citizens to leave this country.[1]

Looking at various projects including Afghanistan, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Natural Gas Pipeline, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) Electricity Transmission Line, Trans-Afghan Transportation Corridor, CASA-1000 (Central and From South Asian countries, including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan project), Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan (TAT) Railway Line and Lapis Lazuli route within the scope of the Middle Corridor, which is discussed to be extended to India. There is also talk that the Beijing administration may include Afghanistan in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

A significant part of these projects is in the construction phase. The Taliban are making efforts to implement the projects. However, the issue of recognition, security and terrorist threats and economic problems prevent Afghanistan from utilizing its potential. Because while the projects provide significant gains for Central and South Asian countries; It will accelerate Afghanistan’s normalization and regional integration process. However, just as Afghanistan cannot use its potential due to threats, Central and South Asia cannot reach its potential for similar reasons. On the other hand, it should be noted that; The intensification of trade and relations, including energy, between Central Asia and South Asia will contribute to the peace and stability of the region. One of the most important concerns of Central Asian states and India is radicalization. While a normalized Afghanistan fights terrorism more effectively; Migration movements, which is the issue that Europe is most concerned about, can be prevented.

At this point, it should be stated that; It is seen that the West made an erroneous calculation towards Afghanistan and Central Asia. Because while the United States of America (USA) was suddenly withdrawing from Afghanistan; It was rumored that he planned to create a center of threat and chaos in the heart of Asia that would limit China and Russia. However, with the Russia-Ukraine War and the Taiwan Crisis, the regional equations have changed. Thus, Europe started not to receive energy from Russia and turned to Central Asia. Western capital started to prefer India. Therefore, Afghanistan-based threats harm the interests of the West as they negatively affect Central Asian countries and India. In other words, it can be argued that the West has adopted a self-destructive policy in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, when we look at the differences between Europe and the USA and the conflicting interests, when necessary, it can be stated that the Washington administration is trying to prevent Europe from acting away from its own influence. In other words, it can be argued that the USA is trying to limit Europe’s ability to act autonomously, to influence and shape the whole of Eurasia, through regional threat sources.

As can be seen, ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan is of critical importance for Central and South Asia. Because it is known that Afghanistan plays a critical role in interregional projects. Regional security and stability are of vital importance, especially when considering that various projects are energy and corridor-based. In addition, Afghanistan is a country that will affect the development process of Asia and Eurasia. While Central Asia and India are turning into important centers of attraction for Europeans; It can be said that these threats will harm Europe as well.

As a result, the main sources of conflicts based in Afghanistan are; intervention of foreign actors, the idea of creating regional influence and policies towards this. The situation in question brings with it economic difficulties and the prevention of projects that will serve development. In addition, the abuse of religious and ethnic identities creates a suitable environment for terrorist organizations. All these hinder the realization of regional projects and ensuring stability. In short, as the US withdraws from Afghanistan; It was thought that he wanted to disrupt the development process of the whole Asian continent, especially Central and South Asia, by leaving a regional center of instability. However, it is understood that with the Russia-Ukraine War, the USA tried to create a center that would negatively affect Eurasia. Therefore, ensuring security in Afghanistan is important for all regional and regional projects, including Eurasia.

[1] “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on December 13, 2022”, Ministry of Foreing Affairs of the People’s Republic of China,, (Date of Accession: 18.01.2023).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.