Both Beijing and Moscow have interests in the estimated $1 trillion worth of minerals in Afghanistan. Yet analysts caution that it may be a long time before any economic goals can be realized.
“I’m not sure China or Russia will be able to take advantage of Afghanistan’s minerals,” Gordon Chang, China expert and author of “The Coming Collapse of China” said. “The reason is political instability.”
Beijing holds a 30-year lease on a major copper mine in Afghanistan, but it still has not produced copper there due to security risks in the area, Chang said.
While Beijing and Russia may pursue short-term goals in the country, it would be many years before they could realistically do this long-term, he added.
Meanwhile, security issues from the Taliban takeover have raised the possibility of closer defense cooperation between China, Iran, and Russia.
Both Beijing and Moscow, who are concerned with Sunni-backed militias in the region, can look to Iran as a regulator of Islamist uprising, analysts said, noting that Tehran is a supporter of Shiite militias such as the Khorasan branch of the ISIS terrorist group.
“Sunni fundamentalists are a problem for governments in both China and Russia but none of these governments have a problem with the Shiites,” said Mitra Jashni, the executive director of Farashgard Foundation, an advocacy group for Iranian liberty and democracy. “One of the goals of Moscow and Beijing is to use Shiite fundamentalists to control Sunni fundamentalists.”
Any cooperation between the three countries would be buttressed by growing economic ties, especially between Beijing and Tehran, which has served as a lifeline for an Islamic regime crippled by Western sanctions.
“China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for a steady supply of oil to fuel its growing economy under a sweeping economic and security agreement signed in March of earlier this year,” Jashni said.
“The economic relations of the Islamic Republic with China are the main factor in maintaining the mullah’s regime.”
Jashni added that both “China and Russia have an enormous amount of influence in keeping the Islamic Republic afloat.”
“In recent years, as Western pressure on the Islamic Republic has increased, the Islamic Republic has become more militarily dependent on the East, especially in the purchase of military weapons from Russia,” she said.
Beijing, Russia, and Iran also have reportedly worked behind the scenes in recent years to bypass Western sanctions.
“China and Iran are strategic partners in a massive effort to push back against American influence worldwide; therefore, they help each other in the face of U.S. sanctions and other punishments,” said Reza Parchizadeh, a political theorist and analyst affiliated with Indiana University.
Parchizadeh noted that while Beijing and Russia are currently cooperating with the Taliban, they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with the group. The pair, though, are likely to cooperate and work with whatever party can force Western influence out of the region, Parchizadeh said.
Iran, meanwhile, was also happy to see the departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
“American presence in Afghanistan posed a challenge to the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] Belt and Road Initiative as well as the Iranian regime’s expansionism towards Central and Southeast Asia,” Parchizadeh said.
“So, they both benefit from U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, because it removes a longstanding geopolitical obstacle to their expansionist agenda,” he said.
“What’s basically happening here is that the extremist Taliban and their Islamist confederates are shrinking the American influence in one of the most strategically important spots in the world, and Iran and China are facilitating it,” he added.