The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

America Decides to Ensure Afghanistan Will Be a Chinese and Russian Ally

I mean, honestly, they probably would have been anyway and yes, I’m getting tired of writing about Afghanistan, but the time to say things about a subject which need to be said is when people are paying attention.


Sanctions don’t work to get countries to do what you want: They haven’t worked with North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, or Cuba. But what they will do is force Afghanistan to get help where it’s available, from the same countries willing to help Iran, which is to say the US’s geopolitical enemies: Russia and China.

If you take a look at a map you can see that both Russia and China really want Afghanistan to be friendly, and willing to let through trade and traffic, plus there are all the minerals, and so on.

If the US had not kept treating the Taliban as enemies, they might have been able to to avoid a tight alliance: All it takes is spending some of the war cash on Afghanistan even though the war has ended. But Americans so often don’t do realpolitik, they just pretend to. So much is about feelings, not interests.

China was always the rising power, but there was no need for Russia or Iran to be its ally. Likewise, the rise of sanctions as the US’s favorite weapon, even above drones, is essentially forcing half the world to create an alternate payments system and end the dollar’s role as world reserve currency, though it may keep that status in part of the world.

Dollar hegemony is a large part of American hegemony, so this seems foolish, but the same elites who couldn’t understand why occupying Afghanistan was stupid, or why using murder squads and drones which kill 90 percent civilians was just making the Taliban stronger, are also incapable of actually managing US interests, even in the coldest, hardest, evil, but semi-pragmatic, terms.

(My writing helps pay my rent and buys me food. So please consider subscribing or donating if you like my writing.)


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 22, 2021


Herd Immunity & Multiple Covid Waves Is a Monstrous Policy


  1. Plague Species

    We’ll see how the Taliban alliance with Russia and China works out. They can all have each other. Good riddance. I think China and Russia should help the Taliban secure Pakistan’s nukes. If the Taliban possessed nukes, Afghanistan would never be invaded again. Courting the Golem.

  2. Feral Finster

    To paraphrase something found elsewhere, the Taliban could drop the hijab requirement, make gender studies mandatory in every school, university and medressah, institute mandatory quotas for hiring women, gays, minorities and cats in every government agency and private business, and hand out medals to every translator, and the US and its vassals still would push for war and/or sanctions.

  3. Hugh

    Pakistan’s nukes are the region’s nightmare in waiting. It’s not clear yet how much effective control the Taliban can exercise over Afghanistan. Chunks of it, yes. The whole of it, as I said, unclear. Afghanistan also needs a lot of money to feed its population and keep up what infrastructure it has. Russia doesn’t have any, and China has no history of being generous. At the same time, both are concerned about Taliban-inspired destabilization in areas of interest to them, for Russia it’s the old Central Asian SSRs and for China, Xinjiang.

  4. bruce wilder

    An unrealistically idealistic and absolutist morality narcissitically pre-occupied with celebrating its own dubious virtue entails a stupid and cruel hypocrisy. One is the face, or rather the mask, and the other, the waste-disposing arse of a single ill-designed system.

    The ridiculous apologies for the war — e.g. the rights of women — are the front end of a machine for translating the unrestrained expenditures of war with no real purpose into corrupt profits for a globalized elite that pays no taxes and conceives no public good or interest.

    Public disengagement induced by a corporate media generating propaganda narratives to fuel red v blue tribalism in the space where thought and discourse belong that prevents any mass public opinion from forming that might instigate reform. No one paid any attention to Afghanistan until Biden confirmed pulling the plug and then no critical thought was aired.

    Of course the Blob wants sanctions. NordStream2 is 99% complete by the way.

  5. jo6pac

    Here’s a couple of good reads.

    Afghanistan will join Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan. Pipe lines and rail lines aren’t not far behind.

  6. Plague Species

    Afghanistan will join Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan. Pipe lines and rail lines aren’t not far behind.

    Good. Everyone should be happy. The people of Afghanistan can now live in peace as an Islamic Republic under Sharia Law.

  7. Hugh

    Good thing there is no dynamite in Afghanistan to blow up a pipeline or rail line.

  8. Roger the cabin boy

    Is it unfair to blame the US puppet regime in Afghanistan for being corrupt when it was a condition of their employment?

  9. Hugh

    Roger, Chomsky thought that all the evil in the world some how came from the US and US foreign policy. What is funny about this is that this is just an inverted form of American exceptionalism, that a bunch of brown people are so helpless they could not manage even being corrupt without us. World history contradicts Chomsky. There was plenty of corruption, evil, and incompetence long before the US existed. The US was irrelevant to corruption in Afghanistan. It was there long before we got there and will be there long after we are gone.

  10. bruce wilder

    I suppose I do not care all that much whether the Taliban are murderers, liars and thieves . . . or not. Because they are Afghans, odds favor their caring about Afghanistan though there can be no counting on taste.

    I know the Americans who directed the war there for no discernible purpose are liars, thieves and murderers. And I know the same class of people continue to have a strong hand in running much of the U.S.

    I do not imagine access to dynamite compares as a problem to the hazards of American access to drones with which to attack wedding parties. Some relief might be expected among Afghans no longer subject to random terrorism by the armchair warriors “against” terrorism.

    Sanctions in place of bribes may not be popular, but the damage done by American-induced corruption of the national government — including no doubt destructive neoliberal measures, may have discouraged many from relying on less religious promises of reform. (Americans caught in the grip of billionaires turned in desperation from the “lesser evil” to the unlikely figure of Trump to drain the swamp — surely a more unhopeful gambit than turning to the righteous Taliban.)

    One of the amusing things about English Tories is the conceit that various former colonized peoples miss them and their “competent” (sic) administration. Nostalgia for famine anyone? Hugh’s deep concern for Afghanistan feels a bit like that. Partition for India, Palestine, Cyprus, Ireland . . . Such fun! Naturally he looks for a split — surely U.S. humanitarian intervention was not rejected by majorities across the whole of that vast country?

    China, which built the cell phone network, are not generous. Was the U.S.? Of 2.2 trillion, how many paltry billions trickled down to some tangible benefit to Afghans? Did that tiny drop offset the murderous destruction and corruption of national authority?

  11. Hugh

    Righteous Taliban? Wow. Always nice to be told what I think by clueless ideologues.

  12. Soredemos

    I always find the notion of countries working to dethrone the dollar as global reserve currency amusing. And they’re going to do this how, exactly? There’s a lot more to it than just creating a new payment system.

    The US dollar will stop being the GRC when everyone else stops holding huge amounts of dollars and US treasury bonds. And that will only happen when everyone stops selling huge amounts of stuff to the US. And unless China wants to start sacrificing its domestic jobs to become a net importer of goods, that basically isn’t going to happen.

    The US made a devil’s bargain of sacrificing its domestic health in exchange for international power and influence. It’s a pretty rotten deal for most of us Americans, and it’s unlikely that any other country would want to emulate it.

  13. Mary Bennett

    The USA has no strategic interest in Central Asia. None. Russia and China do. The stans are their neighborhood, just like Latin America is ours. It is that simple.

    I don’t think Biden “stood up to the generals”. Remember he announced right after his inauguration no more US support for KSA’s war in Yemen. I suspect he got a briefing from the military which showed, in stark terms just how overextended they are and what can no longer be afforded. Now, I am no fan of Biden, but his working class roots are real, which means he has some experience dealing with reality, unlike the privileged internationalists who make up the higher echelons of the Democratic Party. I think Trump was waiting for an opportunity for withdrawal which would make him look good.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when the inhabitants of Chinese only settlements find out that the Afghan government thinks they too are subject to Islamic law if they want to live in Afghanistan.

  14. Jason

    The USA has no strategic interest in Central Asia. None. Russia and China do. The stans are their neighborhood, just like Latin America is ours. It is that simple.

    Nation-states’ “strategic interests” homogenize deep-rooted cultures. Nation-states are culture-destroying machines.

  15. Plague Species

    I suppose I do not care all that much whether the Taliban are murderers, liars and thieves . . . or not. Because they are Afghans, odds favor their caring about Afghanistan though there can be no counting on taste.

    Are they Afgan? Chris Cuomo contends they are not. Some are, but the organization as a whole and a substantial number of its members are not Afghan. If what Chris Cuomo says is correct and it can be proven with supporting evidence, then the Taliban is as much a foreign occupying force as America was or the Soviet Union was.

    Nothing proves a world turned upside down more than Afghanistan for the last 60 years. The Soviet Union was once a sworn enemy of Islam let alone radical Islam. Fast forward 60 years and now the husk of what was the Soviet Union, Putinstan or some call it Russia, is now a friend not only of Islam but an emphatic proponent of radical Jihadist Islam, so much so it is aligned with the Taliban.

    Conversely, America, thanks to Mika’s father, embraced Islam and radical Islam to counter the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan over 40 years prior. Mika’s father implored the women-and-young-boy-and-girl-raping, knuckle-dragging Islamic cave dwellers, from Pakistan soil, to go and take back the land that rightfully belonged to them whether they were Afghan or not. Fast forward 60 years and those who America once created, coddled and enabled are now allegedly America’s sworn enemies and the Golem Mika’s father created is now considered a terrorist organization.

    My question is, in the next 60 years will it reverse itself again in a manner very similar to how the planet reverses its poles periodically if human is still here 60 years from now?

  16. bruce wilder

    Chris Cuomo contends they are not.

    Oh well then.

  17. Ché Pasa

    How much we want to bet this is all going according to some dusty, half-baked “plan” or other, and that the outcome — whatever it turns out to be — is pretty much what a faction in the foreign policy shops have sought all along?

    Seems to me we like to think of these things and write about them as if they were some sort of monolithic ideation of Them, whomever rules us, which we in our impotence oppose. But that’s not quite how government works, not in Our System anyway. At the top there are always contending factions, some of which we can see, much of which we don’t.

    It was clear from the outset that the United States empire has little or no strategic interest in the Stans, including the Afghanistan. The region is of primary interest to those in the region including India, Pakistan, China and Russia. The excuses for invading and occupying Afghanistan were always tissue thin. The idea that it was a “terrorist training center” was and is contemptible.

    The attackers on 9/11 did not come from Afghanistan; they mostly came from Saudi Arabia and they were trained in the United States.

    So that excuse for attacking Afghanistan was horseshit. There were other, mostly unstated, reasons, though, and those were the reasons that kept the bloodshed and destruction — and the looting — going for 20 years. And would have kept it going forever if not for intervention from the top.

    It wasn’t the mineral wealth supposed to exist in Afghanistan. All the wealth looted during the occupation came from the US, some filtered through Nato, in a massive grift that will probably continue under different guise. The idea was to establish a permanent base in the region and basically launder money through it while trying out various ways of violently suppressing people in the way. This is modern imperialism in a nutshell.

    Gangsterism. But then, imperialism has always been that, right?

    And there was always internal opposition to this vision on both sides of the aisle. Those who promoted and kept it going were finally undone by (of all people) another gangster, DJ Trump. Biden took advantage — to his credit. The struggle between the factions hasn’t concluded. But it will, and I for one hope that China and Russia can be the stabilizing influences in the region, even if they too are run by gangsters.

  18. Plague Species

    Oh well then.

    I didn’t say I agree with him or that he’s right. It is a topic for discussion related to this and what Cuomo contends does have a shred of merit to it. Another topic related to this is whether or not Afghanistan is actually a country. There’s a strong argument to be made that it’s not. The notion of Afghanistan as a country or a nation was always an arbitrary British abstraction.

  19. Plague Species

    Ummm, fair enough, but the Taliban is Gangsterism too. America should remove itself entirely from the equation. No sanctions, but also no aid. No drone strikes. No embassy. America should proceed as if Afghanistan doesn’t exist because, in reality it doesn’t exist except on paper.

    Amidst all the hand-wringing, not a word about COVFEFE-45 and the Delta variant in “Afghanistan.” Apparently, the Taliban and “Afghans” are naturally immune from the virus and the pandemic doesn’t apply to any of them and therefore is no cause for concern. Yet another example of how the myopic, compartmentalized press cannot view the world integratively and holistically and therefore each spectacle they hype must be separate but equal but NEVER combined.

  20. Ché Pasa

    Watch the video walking tour of the Kandahar market over at NC and you’ll see essentially no one is masked up. Maybe they can’t get masks. I dunno. Maybe they are immune. Maybe the place is ravaged by the virus. Je ne sais quoi.

    Also the videographer says there are fewer people out and about than before the Taliban takeover, but otherwise things are pretty normal. Who’d a thunk?

  21. Hugh

    Normal? The Taliban’s seizure of power has pretty much frozen Afghanistan’s economy which was highly dependent on foreign aid and US money. There are also many Afghans dependent on foreign food aid which has stopped and healthcare workers who have left or are leaving.

  22. Soredemos


    Meanwhile your stance is always that nothing bad in the world happens because of the US; it’s always someone else’s fault.

    Anyway, I’m increasingly convinced that the Taliban are actually serious about wanting to make a genuine attempt at running a real country, and about not engaging in mass murder (though I’m sure certain people they think simply can’t be allowed to live will be quietly taken to backrooms and executed). The latest thing is them asking the US to not fly all the professionals with expertise out the country. The explanation for this is either 1. they’re worried about there being a brain drain that will deprive them of the skills they need to effectively run the country, or 2. they’re just so comically filled with bloodlust that they’re upset they won’t get to splatter highly knowledgeable brains across the ground.

  23. different clue

    I notice that the MSM, many prominent Democrats, many prominent G7 Leaders, etc. are demanding that Biden order US troops to stay in – around Kabul Airport beyond August 31 in order to “provide time to evacuate everyone needing-deserving evacuation”. And the Taliban has already said that if Biden does that, there will be “consequences and repercussions”.

    Here’s what the people saying “stay a little longer” hope to achieve. They know very well that the American majority welcomes the surrender-by-any-other-name to the Taliban because most Americans are weary at the futility of it all. The weary futilitarians will not be moved by appeals to “womens rights” and ” but what about the little girls !?” and etc. to send the Big Army back into Afghanistan for a whole nother round of war.

    But maybe if they can get Biden to leave troops around Kabul airport for just a few days into September, then maybe . . . just maybe . . . . the Taliban will attack American troops so severely and atrociously that the American public mood can be de-transformed back to rage and hate. And the establishment will use that rage and hate to “go back in” and ” do it really right this time”. That is what all the Democrats, foreign leaders, etc. demanding Biden authorise American troops stay in place beyond Aug 31 are hoping will happen. That is why they are demanding for Biden to leave the troops there.

    If Biden caves in to elite demands and leaves the troops there, will the Taliban be such reflexive behavior machines as to super-attack the American troops the way the elite want them to, in order to bring America right back into the war bigly? I hope not, but I don’t know.

  24. Warvigilent

    If the elite really wanted to keep the us in afganistan , they don’t even need the taliban’s cooperation. Just some of those “contractors”/ mercenaries are needed to commit some atrocity against a favored group or even attack remaining us personnel from a distance and blame the taliban. similar tactics were used in iraq and im sure afganistan over the years

  25. different clue


    Ahh . . . . . the old “Gliewicz” trick, eh?

  26. elkern

    USA actually does have Strategic National Interests to occupy (or mess with) Afghanistan, but nobody ever talks about them.

    1) If/when we ever get around to bombing Iran, it would be really nice to have big US Air Force bases on Iran’s Eastern flank. IMO, this is really in NOT the US’ National Interest, but the people who pay for Congressional campaigns have made it so.

    2) Block the New Silk Road, to slow China’s rise and hang on to Dollar Supremacy for a little longer. IMO, this is sad and misguided; it will make our fall harder when it comes, and it causes [even more] wide-spread permanent hatred against us.

    My optimistic projection is this: Russia (with sticks) & China (with carrots) get Taliban to mellow out a bit, and promise on a big stack of Korans to avoid exporting terrorism. China invests real money in Afghanistan, hires a million young Afghans to build The Road (and RR’s, and pipelines, etc). A happy Middle Class is more interested in having a good life here on Earth, rather than killing people to get into heaven.

    My pessimistic projection is: USA/KSA/Pak ISI mess things up, push/pulling Taliban into hard-line positions, imagining this gives them leverage over China & Russia. US GOP uses the messy withdrawal to bludgeon Biden, and AIPAC helps them beat The Squad (and other Democrats who are “soft” on Iran/Palestine). GOP takes back at least 1 branch of Congress in 2022, and prevents USA from doing anything to make life better, here or abroad. USA bombs somebody (Iran? Venezuela? USA?) and starts WWIII.

  27. Lex

    Our allies are asking for more time because the US has frozen them out of evacuating people. The civilian side of Karzai airport is a no man’s land and the military side is dedicated to US interests. Every time the news said “civilian air traffic stopped” it meant “the flights our allies arranged to remove their nationals have been blocked by the US”. Now there’s a good chance the Taliban has said it will allow non-US nationals to leave peacefully after 8/31 (there have been high level, direct talks), but there’s the same chance that the US knows an airport attack will happen if it’s not gone by then. Still leaving our “allies” hung out to dry. Always was “america first”.

  28. different clue

    I wonder if every agency and department of US government which was actually involved in planning and handling such a departure and its attendant evacuations was secretly committed to preventing advance planning and making sure no plan was available to execute . . . . in order to create this chaos on purpose . . . . in order to demonstrate to the elected side of American government that ” this is the price of daring to terminate a conflict we want to keep going and going and going and if you don’t want us to arrange this for Iraq or for wherever else you would like to terminate involvement in, you will give up any thoughts of terminating involvement there”.

    Or as someone else put it somewhere else, one wonders if the military and everyone else involved in the actual handling of this thing went on a ” work to rule” stealth-strike.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén