진퇴양난 아프가니스탄···미·중·소 3강 대리전 텃밭 될까?

[아시아엔=유수프 시나르 터키 전략문제연구소 연구원] 조지 부시 정부의 테러전쟁으로 시작된 아프가니스탄에 대한 미국의 개입은 19세기 중앙아시아 패권을 차지하기 위해 벌어졌던 ‘그레이트 게임’과는 크게 다르다. 미국의 아프간 개입은 오직 미국의 권력을 전세계에 과시하기 위한 게 목적이었다.

러시아의 아프간에 대한 관심?

러시아의 아프가니스탄에 대한 관심은 상징적 의미가 있다. 러시아는 아프가니스탄을 다시금 세계 정치무대 위에 올려놓으려는 것이 아닌가 여겨진다. 러시아는 아프가니스탄에서 벌어진 사건들에 대한 책임을 미국과 나토에게 묻고 있다. 러시아는 2013년 나토가 이땅에서 철수한 직후 아프가니스탄에 칼라시니코프 소총 1만정을 무상으로 넘겨주고 ISIS와의 전쟁을 이유로 최근 탈레반과 정보공유 등 협력관계를 맺으면서 아프가니스탄에 관한 관심을 놓지 않고 있다.

중국의 ‘일대일로’ 구상과 지역정치

중국은 “일대일로 정책”에 89억 달러의 예산을 배정하고 주변국과의 협력과 선의의 경쟁을 기대하고 있다. 97km의 국경선을 마주하고 있는 아프가니스탄에서는 국가안보뿐 아니라 사회간접시설 및 에너지 부문에서 중국의 영향력이 점점 커지고 있다.

아프간 정부와 탈레반의 평화협상

탈레반이 아프가니스탄에서 일어난 일들에 대해 미국과 아프가니스탄 정부에 책임을 전가하고 있는 이상 평화협상에서 긍정적인 결과를 얻기란 쉽지 않아 보인다. 장기적인 전략이 없이 아프가니스탄 문제에 개입하고 있는 미국이 평화협정을 방해하는 요인이 되고 있는 것도 사실이다. 탈레반과의 협상에 미국의 의지가 개입된다면 현실적인 문제에서 벗어나게 되고 이는 ‘오바마의 낙관주의’의 또 다른 사례가 돼버릴 것이다.

아프가니스탄에서의 탈레반과 ISIS의 경쟁관계

탈레반은 아프가니스탄 내의 이상적인 이슬람사회 건설을 목표로 삼고 있다. 이를 위해 국제사회에 메시지를 전달하고 반이슬람 사회에 대해 경고를 하면서도 대중의 지지를 잃지 않으려 한다. 반면에 ISIS는 권력 장악이 목표다. 탈레반으로서는 아프가니스탄의 실업문제와 ISIS의 다국적 군인들에게 제공하는 연금문제로 국제사회의 지지를 잃을까 염려하고 있다.

이라크와 시리아에서 세력을 잃게 된 ISIS는 아프가니스탄에 거점을 마련하고 세계의 이목을 아프가니스탄으로 끌어들이고 있다. 이에 따라 정치구조가 취약한 아프가니스탄은 미국, 러시아 등 강대국과 ISIS 등 급진세력 사이의 전쟁터가 되고 있다.

현재 트럼프 미대통령은 오바마정부와는 다른 노선을 취할 것으로 보이지만, 트럼프 역시 아프가니스탄에 대한 장기적인 외교정책이 없다. 미국은 2016년 모스크바에서 열린 아프가니스탄의 안정화를 위한 국제회의에 참여하지 않았다. 아프가니스탄의 평화를 위해 러시아, 중국, 파키스탄 등 각국이 노력을 기울이지만 이라크와 시리아 같은 대리전이 아프카니스탄에서 또 일어나는 것을 막을 수 있을지는 두고 볼 필요가 있다.

Will Afghanistan Become the Next Proxy War?

Asst. Prof.Dr. Yusuf ?ınar

Strategic Outlook Institution, Turkey

Afghanistan turned into a matter of ‘prestige’ during the War on Terror initiated by the George W. Bush administration. In other words, the ‘Enduring Freedom Operation’ was the first indication that the USA was becoming a global hegemony. The US’ involvement in Afghanistan was unrivalled and different from the “Great Game” of the 19th century-it was to show its own national power to the world.

Russia’s Interest in Afghanistan

While the question of why the Soviet Army was sent to Afghanistan is frequently questioned by Russian thinkers, it is hard to say that there is remorse regarding the fallacy of the decision made by the USSR to intervene in Afghanistan. Russians think the USSR failed in Afghanistan because of their hasty method of intervention. It was significant for Putin to have praised the intervention in Afghanistan during his visit to see Afghan war veterans for the Russian Afghanistan strategy. It can be said that Russian interest in Afghanistan is loaded with symbolic values, and its tendency to regard Afghanistan as the place where it will once again present itself in world politics is on the rise. Undeniably, Russia regards the USA and NATO as the responsible parties for what happened in Afghanistan. Russian donation of 10,000 Kalashnikov rifles to Afghanistan immediately after NATO forces was pulled out in 2013 and its recent collaboration with Taliban to “fight against ISIS” by exchanging knowledge and intelligence are important to fully understand Russian interest in Afghanistan.

Chinese Regional Politics on the Context of “One Belt, One Road”

An 890 billion dollar budget has been allotted to the “One Belt, One Road” project with the leadership of the Chinese Ministry of Development. Through this project, China generated great anticipation and rivalry among the countries of the region. The 97 km border between China and Afghanistan has caused China to regard the developments in Afghanistan as part of its national security agenda. Afghanistan, on the one hand, thinks that China is increasing its influence in the region and that it will not be possible to attain domestic peace without the involvement of China. Particularly, the activity of Chinese companies within the Afghan infrastructure and energy sector is what increases China’s prestige in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Government and Taliban Peace Talks

While some wanted to establish talks with the Taliban, there were also other members who were against all such efforts at communication. The Taliban regards the USA and the Afghanistan government as the prime actors responsible for what happened in Afghanistan. In this setting, it can be said that it is futile to expect positive results from establishing talks. The fact that the US acted without a long-term strategy regarding Afghanistan is another reason preventing peace talks. As the opium trade in Afghanistan exceeds 3 billion dollars, establishing talks without determining the role Taliban will assume in the drug trade will only ensure these talks will be doomed from the start. Indeed, the political bureau of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (opened in Qatar in 2013 to execute peace talks by Taliban) was closed down after an ultimatum by the Afghanistan government. It can be speculated that peace talks with Taliban as a consequence of the United States’ will regarding the issue is devoid of reality; another example of “Obama’s optimism”.

The Taliban-ISIS Rivalry in Afghanistan

When Taliban was formed it was announced that their reason d’?tre was to establish an ideal Islamic society in Afghanistan. Taliban, by operating a social message and punishment system, tried to keep its public support alive. ISIS on the other hand, apart from Taliban, sets forth a relatively broader envision of the world. ISIS, by the implementation of the Caliphate, aims to obtain global political power.

ISIS has become the first organization to be approved in the East of Afghanistan and the first to challenge Taliban in Afghanistan. Besides, high unemployment in Afghanistan and the pensions offered by ISIS to its militants worries Taliban of losing its social support. ISIS forbids the plantation of drugs in the areas it dominates in Afghanistan.

In a final analysis, as a weak state, Afghanistan does not have control of even 30% of its own soil. Even though its land is rich with natural resources, it is the nation’s fragile political structure that allows it to continue becoming a war zone for great powers and radical organizations. Indeed, ISIS found itself a base in Afghanistan. The prime aim of ISIS in Afghanistan is to call the attention of the rest of the world in Afghanistan and away from Iraq and Syria where IS lost its power.

Despite all, Russia feels differently from the USA regarding the future of Afghanistan, especially after the Ukraine and Syria crises. And in this context, it can be said that the indecisive Afghanistan policy of the USA played for the benefit of Russia. Namely, in 2014, even when the US Air Force conducted 13,000 sorties in Afghanistan despite all the uncertainty, the number dropped to 2000 sorties in 2016.

Though radical structuring continues to take root in the region, the USA continues to make the same mistakes it did in Iraq by leaving behind a “weak state” next to radical groups. The current US President Donald Trump may follow a different path regarding the future of Afghanistan than the one followed by the Obama administration.

However, it is not correct to assume that the US will be successful in Afghanistan this time around. This is because similar to Obama; Trump also does not have a long-term foreign policy regarding the issue of Afghanistan. Also, within the last days of 2016, there have been a number of meetings to stabilize Afghanistan-all of which the US did not attend. In this direction, in a joint meeting conducted in Moscow by representatives from Russia, China, and Pakistan, concerns regarding the power ISIS attained in Afghanistan were voiced.

After all, while Pakistan brought together authorities from Afghanistan and Taliban in the last days of 2016, no tangible result was obtained. In short, even though countries of the region reflect each other in order to maintain domestic peace in Afghanistan, time will tell whether these reflections will be enough to prevent the spread of the Iraqi and Syrian proxy wars towards Afghanistan.

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