A leading foreign policy analyst has written that “post-American Afghanistan” is becoming a “flashpoint”–not just in the region, but in the world, as emerging powers jockey for position amidst declining U.S. influence.
Robert D. Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor, notes that “the Middle East has still not found a solution to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire” after World War I, and that China, Pakistan, and Iran–two existing and one aspiring nuclear power–are set to compete for influence over Afghanistan in the wake of U.S. withdrawal from a mission that President Barack Obama was probably never truly committed to winning.
Along with the integration of Myanmar (Burma) into the regional economy, the emergence of Afghanistan in these new competing spheres of influence will result in the creation of a new “Indo-Pacific” strategic reality, as China extends its power throughout both oceans, both through extending its trade umbrella and building its military and diplomatic presence–“the signal geopolitical development of our time,” Kaplan writes.
Pakistan will compete for influence, but may also be unstable, Kaplan notes: Regarding Pakistan, the current bifurcation of the Indian Subcontinent is likely not history’s last word on political arrangements there. Pakistan…could gradually be reduced to a rump state of Greater Punjab, with the Baluch and Sindhis aligning themselves with a Greater India and a Pushtunistan straddling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The fate of Afghanistan following a U.S. withdrawal, Kaplan says, could determine Pakistan’s future and set the stage for a new arena of geopolitical competition. If Kaplan is correct, then U.S. withdrawal from the world–as in the interwar period in the last century–would create greater insecurity, and potential for new conflict that will not remain confined to a far corner of the world but will extend ever closer to U.S. interests and borders.