While the US is seeking long-term military stay in Afghanistan, China and Russia, two powers opposing the American hegemony, find prolonged American presence in the war-torn country a threat to their national security amid fears that it could destabilize the Central Asia. So, Moscow and Beijing expectably take steps in opposition of Washington and to make Kabul's stances close to those of the East.
The abovementioned claim can be tracked in the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)’s summit held on Friday in Russia’s Sochi. Abdullah Abdullah, the chief executive of Afghanistan, met with Rashid Alimov, the secretary general of the SCO in the Russian resort city. The SCO chief during the meeting called Afghanistan the “heart of Asia and the SCO”, and voiced full support to Afghanistan's permanent membership in the regional bloc.
Alimov added that Kabul has to sign the treaties, hold cultural days, and further cooperate economically with member states in a bid to speed up the process of accession. The Afghan CEO during the meeting outlined the regional challenges and opportunities, and shared Kabul’s vision of the regional developments, and demanded that the general secretary works towards facilitation of Afghanistan membership.
With these remarks in mind, the first notion is that both sides are eyeing cooperation expansion, with especially Kabul looking forward to permanently join the 8-member bloc. Here are some questions: Why does the SCO welcome the Afghanistan membership bid and is asking for Kabul to accelerate the process? On the other side, why is Afghanistan that willful to join in, having in mind that the SCO is a rival to the US in the region?
Three goals drive the SCO's will to see Afghanistan on board: Ending US presence in Afghanistan
The driving force for the SCO's interest to see membership of Afghanistan is the rivalry of China and Russia, two top members of the bloc, with the US and other Western countries. For Moscow and Beijing, American presence on Afghanistan’s soil, which can cut their influence and reduce their strategic depth, is a serious threat. So, they eye bringing Kabul to their side in the mid-term with the aim of forcing American troops out of Afghanistan and removing the NATO military bases there. Therefore, the top intention beyond alluring Afghanistan into the organization is Russia’s and China’s objective to lay foundations of a new regional balance in competition with North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Terrorism in Afghanistan and threats to the SCO member states
Welcoming Afghanistan in the SCO is also related to the presence of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the war-ravaged country. In fact, the SCO members are highly concerned about terrorism spillover to their territories once Afghanistan is awash with it. So, the best way, they think, is to make the country a permanent member, an arrangement that paves the way for the heavyweights of the bloc to get a toehold there through which they can more easily realize their counterterror policies. Afghanistan war has turned the Central Asian country into a setting of terrorism, radicalism, and also a global hub of illegal drugs production. China and Russia intend to build catch-all atmosphere of comprehensive national dialogue and bring Afghan central government and its opponents to the negotiating table. Afghanistan geopolitical position as Central Asia gate
There is one more reason for Afghanistan to be accepted as a permanent member. It is Afghanistan’s geopolitical status that can offer the country a role of a facilitator of expansion of Russia and China strategic depth. As a gate of the Central Asia, Afghanistan is geopolitically significant to Moscow and Beijing. If the SCO manages to gain influence in Afghanistan, it can set up a kind of balance of threat in the face of the American influence in the region.
On the other side, Afghanistan has its own drives to bid for SCO membership. Here are two of them: SCO, the world’s future economic hub
Over past two years, the Afghan leaders have been obsessed with reconstruction and economic revival as two very urgent needs of the nation. So, membership of the SCO, as the potential economic hub of the world in the future, is important for the Kabul politicians. Afghanistan's leaders are well aware of this fact that their country’s infrastructures are shabby, and joining the SCO can help them rebuild economic infrastructures. Moreover, trade dealing with the SCO states is significant for Kabul, and can prepare the ground for the country’s economic flourishing. Fighting terrorism for sustainable stability
Kabul is looking forward to working with Moscow and Beijing in counterterror issues, especially when it comes to repulsing ISIS terrorist organization from the country’s territories. Observing the Russian success in association with the Iran-led Axis of Resistance in neutralizing terrorists in Syria, the Afghan officials are now more open to partnership with Moscow. Although this cannot amount to Kabul’s walking away from Washington, Afghanistan's SCO accession bid at least for the purpose of getting help of Russia and China in the face of major terror factions somehow marks the country’s discontentment with Washington’s allowing the crisis to unfold in Afghanistan that provides Americans with justification to stay.