Afghanistan, the new empty space of a superpower triangle

The mountainous land in the heart of Asia known as Afghanistan has always remained a major geopolitical dispute between the superpowers. The Great Game (Tsar Russia vs. Britain), Cold War (USSR/Russia vs. America) and the War on Global Terror brought the attention of these giant fishes to fight for supremacy, dominance and securing of their strategic depth in this piece of land. But on the other hand, the host country (Afghanistan) escaped the aforementioned disputes with a self-recovering neck name “the graveyard of empires”.

Of the three scenarios above, the best dates back to late 2001, when the United States and its NATO partners swept away Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in a short period of time. The initial phase of the presence of the United States and its partners was not considered a security threat by its two main rivals such as Russia and China, because the United States obtained the license of the Council United Nations Security (UNSC).[1]. The removal of the Taliban from power has been considered the key turning point in modern Afghan history.

The contest of the three superpowers on securing their influence in Afghanistan

Following the rapid withdrawal of the United States and its partners from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021, a new version of empty space has been created. China and Russia were cautiously monitoring the vacuum in Afghanistan, as both had their diplomatic missions active while other foreign diplomatic offices had closed in Afghanistan.

China, one of the most powerful countries in the world in terms of a formidable economy and massive military status, has already made a strong impression on the Taliban. In addition to this, Pakistan’s fundamental relationship with the Taliban has further enhanced diplomatic relations with China and the Taliban. China, as an emerging superpower in Asia, is still pursuing its so-called economic dominance by investing in other countries. Indeed, China wants to expand its influence in Afghanistan through its non-interference approach. But in reality, China monitors Afghan mines and cracks down on Uyghur minorities[4] who found refuge in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, Russia is looking for a lasting, trusting and lasting relationship[5] with the current regime in Kabul. However, the war against Ukraine and the moderate ISK-P activities in some of the northern provinces of Afghanistan have kept Russia in a thinking room. Russia perceives that its great rival (the United States) is probably planning to entrap it either in Afghanistan or in Ukraine. On the other hand, the weekly sending of dollars by the United States to Kabul and the secret meetings of the US and Taliban leaders behind closed doors in Doha[6], kept the other points of the triangle (China and Russia) back from the match.

To close this op-ed, continuing the triangle game of maintaining influence could further divide the current Taliban regime into small groups where everyone could work in favor of one of the superpowers in the triangle. However, the geolocation of Afghanistan will remain a contested space for an indefinite time.


[1]United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386 – Wikipedia

[2]How Much We Spent in Afghanistan – Research,” Bing, accessed October 16, 2022

[3]The Washington Post, last modified April 13, 2021

[4]Chinese Mining Groups Scour Afghanistan for Opportunities | Financial Times (ft.com)

[5]Russia says Kabul looks safer under Taliban than it was under Ghani – EURACTIV.com

[6]Senior US officials hold first face-to-face meeting with Taliban since US killed al-Qaeda leader in July | CNN Politics

Ahmad Marzee graduated from Kardan University in Afghanistan and the Command and Staff College in the United States. He is currently pursuing his Masters in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London, UK.

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