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Wednesday, November 10, 2021
ANBOUND's Discussion Session: Changes in the Geopolitics of the World Island and Global Impact

On October 28, ANBOUND Research Center in Malaysia organized a discussion on Changes in the Geopolitics of the World Island and Their Global Impact. The session was joined by ANBOUND Malaysia's Chief Editor Siang Kim Chia, Professor Rafiq Dossani, Director of RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy, and Dr. Roy Anthony Rogers, senior lecturer at Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya. Dato' Ong Chong Yi, Regional Chief Representative of ANBOUND in ASEAN, attended the meeting.

Siang Kim Chia noted that in global geopolitics, one of the biggest changes brought about by Afghanistan this time is the withdrawal of the United States from the Eurasian region. This not only concerns the field of global geopolitics, but also in international relations. In the issues surrounding Afghanistan, ANBOUND's founder Mr. Kung Chan wrote that historically, after China during the Tang Dynasty conquered the Western Turks in 659 C.E., as the Turkic king of Tokharistan became its vassal, Afghanistan was integrated as part of the territory of the Tang China. Tang Dynasty lost its control of the Afghan region after its defeat in the Battle of Talas against the Abbasid Caliphate in 751 C.E. The loss of Afghanistan meant that Tang China lost its dominant influence, which led to the encroachment and invasion of external forces, which after more than a millennium shaped what Afghanistan is today.

ANBOUND research report demonstrated that the events that unrolled in Afghanistan would affect the financial capital field as well, which will be severely impacted and affected by the problem facing Afghanistan. Once the USD 2.3 trillion in military spending is lost, this is equivalent to a huge worldwide investment squeeze, which will also have a significant impact on the U.S. economy. At the same time, due to politics involved in U.S. dollar politics, the United States has lost its dominant influence in the Eurasian continental regional order, which is equivalent to a serious narrowing of the U.S. dollar zone. No other more important issue in the world than Afghanistan. Whether it is financial capital, industrial transfer, urbanization, and cross-strait issues, all of these issues cannot be as important as the Afghan issue, as the decline of geopolitical influence brought about by the Afghan issue are closely related with all these issues.

The discussion began with historical events that shaped the current situation of Afghanistan. Prof. Dossani pointed out that although there is an attempt by historians to link the radicalization of Afghanistan in the 1970s to the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban of more modern times, he believes that is gross overstatement, and that radicalization is of a very small proportion of the population. What the Taliban offers is actually not radicalization, but fundamentalism, and there is a difference between the two, with fundamentalism being with the aim of returning to the Sharia.

Prof. Dossani stressed that the Taliban is not particularly interested in radicalism. Their priority now is to provide some semblance of good government to Afghanistan to the people. Otherwise, their legitimacy will be questioned. What the people are looking for is a safe environment, basic utilities and services, food, water, and so on. He further pointed out the Taliban does not focus much about what is happening at the margins and borders of Afghanistan, as the priority is very much the center of the country. Its neighboring Pakistan now fears about refugee flows, and drug money that will flow through.

The Taliban, according to Prof. Dossani, has particularly changed in terms of the fundamentalist outlook, though it is more serious about governance. He also questioned that, being under American rule, in a sense through proxies for two decades, Afghanistan remains poor. People are worried that the Taliban would make the country worse, but it is actually already in the worst state that it could be.

Prof. Dossani also emphasized that, the problem of the Taliban of Afghanistan used to be a global problem after 9/11. Now, it's a regional problem and not an issue that needs to worry Britain and the United States, or even most of the Middle East. Rather, it is a problem for Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China and Central Asia. This means that the whole dynamics have changed.

He concluded that the Taliban is having a difficult time ahead for because of lack of resources. The West and China, Russia and other countries should recognize that it is a very poor country; if help is not provided to the Afghanistan, it will make the country becoming more fundamentalistic, even towards radicalism, in addition to other problems like drug smuggling. He noted that Afghanistan is a very diverse country with many ethnic groups, and this could pose a major challenge for its governance. Therefore, an inclusive government is important for the Taliban though this does not mean to include every single group. Good governance can happen with a single party, provided with the right policies.

Dr. Rogers on the other hand, believes that the 1973 Afghan coup d'état that overthrew the monarchy is a turning point that led to the 1979 Soviet invasion, followed by the resistance of the mujahideen and the retreat of the Soviets, and other events that followed suit.

In terms of the impact of the events in Afghanistan on Central Asia, Dr. Rogers they will have some form of influence towards the region, including Xinjiang in China and Pakistan. His concern is not so much the Taliban, but rather other radical groups that are operating such as ISIS-K, which might take the opportunity of political uncertainties in Afghanistan right now. On Central Asia, he noted that while most of the Central Asian republic populations are Muslims, these are also mostly secular and their leaders are very much concerned about the proliferation of radical ideas in to their own countries that could jeopardize the Central Asian region. There are also possibilities that such ideas could even inspire other radical groups in Southeast Asia, including in Indonesia and South Philippines.

In terms of the Taliban's governance, Dr. Rogers believes that a challenge facing the Taliban is the tribal politics there, and this is closely tied to the survival of this new regime in Afghanistan. It should be noted that the Taliban is not a monolithic whole but is divided into several fractions, and some among them more conservative than others. On the normalization of Afghanistan, especially its trade and diplomacy with other countries, Dr. Rogers noted that most countries adopt a wait-and-see attitude and it requires six to twelve months to observe. In terms of humanitarian assistance, as winter is approaching, basic necessities like blankets and heaters need to be provided for the Afghan people.

Dr. Rogers concluded that the international community has an important responsibility, especially in terms of humanitarian assistance. With the Taliban back to power, the world cannot ignore the Taliban. Rather than further isolating the Taliban, which may make it worse.

Disclaimer: Prof. Dossani expressed are his personal views and should not be attributed to the RAND Corporation. Dr. Rogers expressed are those of his own and do not reflect the opinions of University of Malaya's.