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World powers jostle in Afghanistan's new 'Great Game'
World | analysis | 10:24, 12 January 2017 | 7308

AKIPRESS.COM - Afghanistan's strategic landscape is changing as regional powers forge links with the Taliban and vie to outdo each other in what's being seen as a new "Great Game".

Fifteen years after the US-led intervention in Afghanistan, competition for influence - reminiscent of that rivalry between the Russian and British empires in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, and that during the Cold War in the 1980s - is intensifying, complicating an already precarious security situation, reported BBC.

Suspicion and mistrust remain the biggest obstacle to stability in strategically-located Afghanistan, which has the potential to destabilise the wider region.

Pakistan, considered the main supporter of the Afghan Taliban, has been accused of playing a double game. But Afghan and Western officials as well as Taliban sources have also spoken about the Taliban's clandestine links with Iran for the past few years.

And recently it emerged that Russia's ties with the Taliban were warming too.

In December the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Nicholson, criticised Russia and Iran for establishing links with the militants, which both countries have confirmed.

The US has also pursued contacts with the Taliban in recent years but those efforts have not brought peace. Several regional powers, most notably Russia and Iran, criticise the US and its allies for "failing" in achieving its original objectives of eliminating violent extremism and drugs in Afghanistan.

Three major factors have contributed to the shifting of regional alliances:

  • the emergence of so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan;
  • changes in the approach of the new Afghan government;
  • and tensions between the US and regional players such as Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan.
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