Will the Gulf States change its attitude towards Afghanistan?

A child in Afghanistan (Shutterstock)
Will the Gulf States change their stance on the Taliban after it took control of Afghanistan? Ahmad Abdel-Rahman explains.

Bahrain, in its capacity as the current chair of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), announced that it would start consultations with other Gulf States on the situation in Afghanistan. The Council of Ministers assigned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdul Latif Al-Zayani, to coordinate and consult with the GCC countries regarding the developments in Afghanistan, according to the Bahrain News Agency,

This move comes at a time when the GCC countries, with the exception of Qatar, are in a state of high anticipation about the role Afghan politics will play in the region. The has taken control.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tried to play the role as mediator, between Afghanistan and the US but this was rejected by Qatar. The Taliban transferred its talks to Qatar, which has played a pivotal role in Afghan politics and has hosted the Taliban office since 2013. There is an implicit coordination with Washington and there have been several rounds of negotiations over the past years.

HISTORY

 In the late 1990s, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the only two Gulf countries to recognise the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. However, after the events of September 2001, both Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi withdrew their recognition of the Taliban government. Soon the US forces entered Afghanistan and put an end to the Talban rule.

In 2003, the UAE sent a military division under the auspices of NATO, and participated in training missions and sometimes there was military confrontation against the Taliban. Now, with the change of the Afghan government in favour of the Taliban, the equation has become different and the Gulf countries have other accounts that are not clear until now , especially that those countries need time to make consultations among them to reach a unified stance in terms of dealing with the new government in Afghanistan.

The UAE, whose forces participated in military operations against the Taliban, called on the Afghan parties representing the Taliban movement to make efforts to urgently establish security and stability in the country.. As for Saudi Arabia, it called for maintaining security and respecting the choices of the Afghan people after it withdrew its diplomatic mission there in 2003. But withdrawing the Saudi diplomatic mission from Kabul is only protocol, given the turbulent situation in Afghanistan. This does not imply an official severing of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

However, the whole world is waiting for what will happen to Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Bahrain and Kuwait have employed the same principles as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This is unlike Qatar, which is considered the double winner, firstly because of its sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology, and secondly because it was able to secure its position as a place for negotiations between the Taliban and Washington DC, the US capital. Therefore, the new challenge for Doha, Qatar's capital, lies in its playing the role of mediator between the Taliban and other countries..

Qatar had issued a statement on the eve of the Taliban's takeover of power, calling for a peaceful transfer and ensuring the safety of civilians. But the biggest surprise came from the Sultanate of Oman, whose Mufti Ahmed bin Hamad Al-Khalili welcomed what he called the 'Great Conquest", which is considered a green light from the Omani Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq. This amounts to a semi-official Omani recognition of the Taliban rule.

The changes in Afghanistan will not only affect the country but the whole region. This is because Afghanistan has a long border with Pakistan and it is a strategic ally of Saudi Arabia. It also has a border with Iran, which will deal cautiously with the Afghanistan. There is already concern as to what it will mean for Iran-Afghani trade.

What happened in Afghanistan can be described as a major blow to the Gulf States, especially those that are not friendly with its Islamic thought. The Taliban's control of the government will encourage the Islamists to expand, especially the Sunnis, even those who do not like the Taliban, because the Taliban's control enhances the idea of ​​the success of any Islamic political project and constitutes an effective tool to mobilise the Islamist fighters to seize power.

International intelligence reports predicted that the Taliban would take control of Afghanistan, but not so quickly. The truth is that the sudden withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan was more tactical than strategic, as Washington put the whole world in a state of anticipation, confusion, and anxiety.

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Friday, 24 September 2021