The Kabul Effect and the New Axis of Evil

August 20, 2021 Updated: August 20, 2021

Commentary

The butterfly effect, as you are no doubt aware, is a phenomenon whereby small changes in a localized, complex system result in enormous changes elsewhere. If I may exaggerate a little, the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Tokyo has the potential to produce an earthquake in Tehran.

What about the “Kabul effect,” a phenomenon whereby the collapse of Afghanistan’s capital has ripple effects around the world, from Europe to the United States, Beijing to Bengaluru, Karachi to Kashmir? With the Taliban back in power, the “Kabul effect” looks likely to alter the geopolitical narrative in the most profound ways imaginable.

With the Chinese regime ready to align itself with the Taliban, exploiting Afghanistan’s rare earth minerals in the process, what will happen to Pakistan, a country where China already exerts a sizable influence?

Six years ago, the Chinese regime launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),  a supposed multibillion-dollar, economic “game changer.” As an important cog in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the economic corridor, according to reports, is now worth $62 billion. The Chinese regime has invested heavily in Pakistan, and it’s eager to see these investments come to fruition. However, with the Taliban in power, could the volatility in neighboring Afghanistan harm Pakistan? If Pakistan gets dragged into a violent vortex, Chinese investments will inevitably suffer. All those buildings and bridges, financed by Beijing, could find themselves bombed into oblivion.

Laborers walk through the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project that China has invested in as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. (Amelie Herenstein/AFP/Getty Images)
Laborers walk through the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project that China has invested in as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. (Amelie Herenstein/AFP/Getty Images)

In reality, though, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is a supporter of the Taliban. When the terrorist group seized the capital, Khan praised the takeover, declaring that the “chains of slavery” had been broken. One wonders what the women of Afghanistan have to say about the supposed breaking of the chains, especially those who find themselves being married off to members of the Taliban. At present, the Chinese regime’s investments in Pakistan look safe. If the Taliban, Beijing, and Pakistan work in harmony, which looks likely, we may very well witness a new Axis of Evil.

The Unholy Trinity

On Aug. 16, the Chinese regime, obviously unfamiliar with the concept of contradiction, released a rather telling statement. Officials in Beijing, we’re told, “respect the will and choice of the Afghan people,” but also respect the will and choice of the Taliban, a murderous movement that is already enforcing strict, Sharia law across the land. Of course, the Chinese regime doesn’t respect “the will and choice” of anyone, not even its own people. The statement, full of generic platitudes, can actually be boiled down to two sentences: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is ready and willing to work with the Taliban. All in the name of profit.

In Afghanistan, minerals and rare earth metals are part of an industry worth more than $3 trillion. As the Chinese regime looks set to capitalize on Afghanistan’s natural resources, it will also seek to further foster relations between the Taliban and Pakistan.

Although such developments should concern the Biden administration, the United States is blessed by geographic distance. However, India, a close ally of the United States, is not. Pakistan and China, united by economic interests, are also united by their disdain for India. Will officials in Beijing and Islamabad use the Taliban’s ascendancy to target the world’s second most populous country?

Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar, somewhat sneeringly, mocks the idea of “the New Axis of Evil.” The Taliban-Pakistan-China connection, we’re told, is a thing of fabrication. A product of our imagination. I beg to differ. With China’s willingness to work with the Taliban, the Indian people are more vulnerable now than they were a few weeks ago.

From roads to dams, the Indian government has made considerable investments in Afghanistan. But all of these investments came with the blessing of the United States, long before the Taliban changed the narrative. Now, as the BBC reports, the Taliban’s ascendancy is likely to test the Indian government, “given the country’s historically tense relations and border disputes with Pakistan and China.” The geopolitical restructuring has the potential to cause significant harm to India, home to one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Previously, the Taliban refused to recognize the notoriously porous border between Pakistan and India, but that might be about to change.

If the Taliban agrees to recognize the border, then Indian-administered Kashmir will, yet again, find itself the epicenter of violent conflict. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir, an ethnically diverse, highly volatile, Himalayan region. At present, both countries administer separate portions of Kashmir, divided by the Line of Control (LoC). If the Taliban, supported by officials in Beijing, find themselves drawn into the Kashmir equation, expect India to suffer.

Although it remains to be seen if this unholy trinity becomes a genuine Axis of Evil, those who snigger at the idea would do well to remember that the Chinese regime, Pakistan, and the Taliban are known for many things, almost every one of them evil. An alliance will only serve to accentuate these iniquities, rather than attenuate them.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Mac Ghlionn
John Mac Ghlionn
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of the New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, The American Conservative, National Review, The Public Discourse, and other respectable outlets. He is also a columnist at Cointelegraph.