The plight of the common man in the ‘so called liberated’ Afghanistan has gone down from bad to worse. Due to the NATO forces, large number of civilian population used to get household work employment jobs and they used to survive hunger and poverty.

A picture of a poor chador clad lady from the state of Afghanistan hurt my core of love for the humanity, from the Wall Street Journal published from USA. This picture was published on 18th October 2021 on its front page. As afghan poverty worsens, children are used to pay debts to survive daily subsistence. There is dwindling hope for the common people and rich people have fled the nation carrying along with them bagful of cash to live their remaining life in Dubai with style and comfort. The picture showed Saleha, a 40 year old housecleaner in Herat and she said her family has slipped so deeply into poverty that a shopkeeper is demanding her 3 year old daughter Najiba, as payment for the family’s debt of about US$ 550. Woman like Najiba are selling themselves for the family HONOUR.

All those who have left the shores and got a ride on large US planes, the push to resettle the first wave of afghan evacuees brought to the US is expected to take months longer than first anticipated as a measles’ scare, a nationwide housing shortage and long tidy paperwork delays have slowed the process, according to the government and resettlement officials. More than 50,000 Afghans are housed temporarily in eight military bases around the country awaiting resettlement to the permanent homes. Their slower than expected release to the independent world means they will have to remain for months in cramped barracks where supplies are often stretched and kids do not go to schools.

There was no money in US to make payments. Domestic violence cases have also cropped up within some of the afghan refugee communities. But the plight of Afghanistan citizens are increasing. Sunni Muslims are bombing Shia mosques and last of the Jew man living in Afghanistan synagogue left for Israel as a last resort for his own safety.

Once a cradle of Buddhists civilisation with Bumiyan Buddha statues and great trading hub, a few hundred Sikh and Hindu families are day in and day out warned to get themselves converted into Sunni muslims or else they will be killed by the local populace. The chances for having an inclusive government in Afghanistan is lost forever.

The great game had been on for 70 long years when Kipling wrote about it in Kim in 1901. From the 1830s the phrase stood for the struggle between Britain and Russia to control Afghanistan and the central and south Asian territories around it. The ‘game’ continues today, but with 10 global players instead of two nations controlling the different governments.

In USA many Americans are greatly relieved that their longest war in their living memory is finally over and boots both of the armed forces and the contractors are back home. The Americans played a deadly game of hiring contractors and thus reduced the number of official ‘body bags’ and contractors hired soldiers. On the plus side, the war didn’t let terrorist use Afghanistan as a base to attack the US, and eliminated 9/11 plotter Osama bin Laden, who was protected by its closest ally Pakistan, even though Pakistan army knew his location. But the way America bolted from Afghanistan, its image lies tattered and its days as a global super cop may be over. Old foe al-Qaida is back in Afghanistan to restart, reboot and become the terror factory of the world again. Some of places where refugees are being settled are in California, and north Virginia, which are very very expensive to live and settle even by the normal standards.

Iran: The last time they were in power, in the year 1998, the Taliban murdered Iranian diplomats. But keeping the risk from Shia – Sunni bad blood aside, Iran today counts Afghanistan among the biggest consumers of its non-oil imports. It’s also been a major source of hard cash ever since the US froze, Iran’s foreign exchange reserve. And Iran needs a stable Afghanistan to use its Chabahar port to do business with India. Since the border with Pakistan is highly porous, hard currency has been sucked out from both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Panjshir valley also chokes the Salang pass route towards south and the route to Mazar e Sharif in the north. Mazar e Sharif is a very important junction point which has routes going towards Tajikistan (Dushanbe), Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. All the assistance comes from these countries via Mazar e Sharif and Panjshir valley totally controls this route of ingress/egress.

Incidentally, India has smartly opened the Farkour air base in Tajikistan which used to support the northern alliance of Ahmed Shah Massoud at Panjshir via Mazar e Sharif. India also had a field hospital there.

Mazar e Sharif has a world famous blue coloured mosque which is believed to hold the mortal remains of Hazrat Ali, the 4th caliph of the Sunnis, damaged only once, when Changez Khan rampaged Afghanistan and he had entered via this axis.

Actually aren’t they originally and ethnically from the region of Tajikistan? I think Changez Khan had left them after plundering Afghanistan as care takers of Afghanistan. Although in minority, they do share a strong friendship with the Tajiks. Iran had a strong hold on Mazar e Sharif through their Shia network.

Qatar: This small emirate has become the main power broker in Afghanistan, mediating the government formation effort and dispensing influence to the outsiders. But the Taliban could embarrass it with a return to their old, repressive ways. All the embassies in Afghanistan which were functional from Kabul have now shifted to Doha and Qatar role as a peace maker cannot be questioned. Doha talks still continue unabated.

Turkmenistan: The Turks share 800 km border with Afghanistan but does not see the Taliban as a major threat. What it’s worried about is the future of the TAPI natural gas pipeline in an unstable Afghanistan.

Pakistan is always paranoid of India encircling them with its great influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan is off to a good start with Taliban in Kabul and could use Afghanistan as a training ground for terrorists destined for India. Pakistan is a great ambassador of Taliban and strongly presented their case in the UNGA meeting through the Pakistan PM. But it must overcome a century of distrust arising from the Durand line or Afghanistan’s eastern border that the British drew in the year 1893, giving Peshawar to the present day Pakistan.

Uzbekistan instability in Afghanistan could pour refugees across its 144 km long border and imperil its own security. Also it is interested in a Trans Afghanistan railway road for which Afghanistan, Pakistani and Uzbekistan officials held discussions in February this year, but the tripartite rail road is now subject to the Taliban whims and fancies.

For India, the Taliban return is a setback, but if India bides its time, the fault lines between Afghanistan and its neighbour Pakistan will show up sooner than later. Central Asian states, terrified of a Taliban spill over, could make space for India and with their converging common interests, the US and India could become formidable opponents to the Pakistan and China groupings.

The risk is that Pakistan might reshape Afghanistan in its image. Russia and China might grow closer, and if Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Russia and Iran form the new regional power bloc, India’s power of influence will get dimmer.

Tajikistan: It wants Tajiks, who make up 25% of the Afghanistan’s population, to have a say in the new government. The fact that it share’s a 1300 km border with Afghanistan and houses Russia’s largest foreign military base gives it lot of leverage.

Russia is still in ‘game’ after 180 years. Russia is mainly interested in preventing instability and extremism in Afghanistan and its central Asian neighbour nations to protect its economic interests. It’s happy to see that the US is out of Afghanistan, which dealt a deadly blow to its image of a global superpower, and has kept its embassy in Kabul operational, for it to leverage this favour at a later day geo politics tango.

China: China does not want to run Afghanistan through remote control. They have already met the Taliban leadership and kept open their embassy, albeit partially. All it wants is to protect its interests in the mineral rich country and make sure rebel Uyghurs who could foment trouble in the Xinxiang region, which borders Afghanistan don’t find a terrorist sanctuary for playing games in this region.

But the world is seeing the humanitarian degradation of the lives of the Afghani people and US gives sanction relief to allow Afghanistan aid. India has also proposed to give the afghan people humanitarian aid. The department’s office of the foreign assets control issued a license allowing several organisations, including the UN agencies, to work with the Taliban without violating the US curbs. Transactions with the Taliban that clear the way for the ‘provision of the humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan’s people are permitted, under the license.

No sensible nation in the world is going to recognise and concerns are growing at the increased constraints the Taliban government has placed on the news media in Afghanistan, after officials issued a new framework of rules for journalists that critics say open the door for censorship and extreme repression. Nearly over 100 local media companies and radio stations around the country have stopped operating, having been shut down, taken over by the Taliban or forced out of business for lack of funding and left and muslim media air a program, in which a muslim lady reporter is interviewing a Taliban gun wielding militant on the prime time.

Such narratives will continue for some time and Taliban will continue to smuggle out loads of poppy products in the global market.

Time for a very long haul, till normally return back to the region with more flights and trade resuming. Already moves are afloat to ban containers originating from Afghanistan, which may contain contraband white powder under some garbs.

As such the world is in grip of rebound China virus, with cities getting closed so who wants powder for the kids to snort!

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