Skip to main content


Nervous neighbours woo the Taliban

The port of Gwadar in Pakistan, which is hoping for a $1bn trade boost from friendly relations with the Taliban. Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Afghanistan’s largest neighbours have much to gain from the US withdrawal, says Zahir Sherazi in Al Jazeera. China is eyeing up between $1 trillion and $3 trillion in untapped mineral resources. Iran is Afghanistan’s biggest trading partner. Pakistan hopes a tough, friendly Kabul will prevent the insurgents who have killed more than 83,000 people and inflicted billions of dollars’ worth of losses on the Pakistani economy from pouring over its borders. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, has urged the world to support the new Taliban government. In return he expects arch rival India to be “out of the game” – and a $1bn boost in trade.

Each country has much to lose if it handles Kabul badly. China’s border with Afghanistan is 57 miles long, Iran’s 572 miles and Pakistan’s 1,659 miles. Beijing fears a chaotic Afghanistan may cause a spillover of violence to Xinjiang province, undermining its Belt & Road initiative. More than two million Afghan refugees on Iranian territory are already worrying Tehran; it wants Afghanistan to be stable so these refugees feel safe to return. Pakistan is aware that the Taliban have more suitors than they did in the 1990s, and are less likely to do as they are told. Dealing with Kabul will be a delicate act for this “emerging anti-US axis”, which also includes Russia. But each of its members has a “vested interest” in seeing the Taliban succeed.