Afghanistan: The 'Graveyard of Empires' Claims Another?

Afghanistan has been called "the graveyard of empires."  While disputes about the validity of the term continue, the fact is that the country has been a battleground for empires.

From ancient times until today, the country has been invaded by what is present-day India, the Greeks, Muslims of the Rashidun caliphate, Mongols led by Genghis Khan, Persians, and Sikhs.  More recently, the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and NATO, led by the United States, have had a go at establishing a presence in the nation.

Why is Afghanistan so important?

According to military tacticians, any entity controlling Afghanistan has a gateway to control Southern Asia, especially India, which can be invaded through the Khyber Pass.  Control of the pass is a reason so many empires and nations have battled for control of the country.  It is key to empire-building in southeast Asia.

Currently, Afghanistan is at least temporarily under the control of the Taliban.  But perhaps even more importantly, China has indicated that it will recognize the Taliban if Kabul falls.

What may happen after China recognizes the Taliban?

Since the restraints Western nations such as Britain, America, and NATO (Europe) place on warfare and the concept of "nation-building" while conducting war do not compute when it comes to the CCP, China will no more regard the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan than it has regarded the Dalai Lama as the spiritual leader of Tibet.

The fact is that China has no reluctance in employing whatever means its current communist regime chooses to quash resistance to empire-building.  One has only to observe the way the Chinese government treats its own citizens, only recently somewhat freed from the disastrous "one child" policy that has resulted in demographic disaster.  One can also cite China's genocidal program aimed at ridding itself of the Uyghur minority within the country.  Another indicator of the regime's ruthlessness is its relentless persecution of religious groups, including but not limited to Christians.  Further, a country that doesn't hesitate to conduct a brisk trade in organs harvested from still-living prisoners would not hesitate to destroy or enslave Afghanis, be they members of the Taliban or not.

In brief, given the documented tactics of its rogue regime, it is clear that China will apply any and all asymmetrical and total war tactics that have the potential to crush the Taliban.  Once underfoot, the Taliban would be seen as having been merely a useful tool for disrupting the current and increasingly fragile Afghani government as well as a means of getting America out of the Southeast Asia geopolitical equation.

What will follow if China succeeds where the West has failed?  What will happen if China essentially takes over Afghanistan?

A Chinese takeover of the country would give Xi a big lever for increased influence of Southeast Asia, which along with China's relentless efforts to dominate the South China Sea routes would further weaken countries to the east and south of China.  Countries such as the Philippines; Indonesia; and even India, Japan, and Australia might be tempted to accede to China's demands and give in to vassalage rather than fight China directly.  The complete exit of America and its allies would ensure an increase in China's Southeast Asia power plays.

What about the United States' exit from a twenty-year-long endeavor?

Unfortunately, the current administration seems oblivious to the current scenario in Afghanistan, focusing on getting America out regardless of the carnage bound to follow a disorderly exit.

In fact, the Biden administration appears to be more interested in increasing the sinicization of America than it is in confronting China on any significant level.  Biden and those who influence him appear to be more interested in extending central control over individual states than in restraining or containing Chinese influence in Southeast Asia and beyond.  He appears more interested in reducing red states into mere satrapies while targeting the largest rebellious states of Texas and Florida.  In brief, Biden seems to be treating red states as China has been treating Hong Kong, and as China would love to treat the nation of Taiwan.  

What is the remedy?

The overall outlook is not good.  It may be too late for America and the West to do much about Afghanistan, given the current weaknesses and divisions within the United States and Europe, especially as they are exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

Frankly, the current administration is in disarray when it comes to foreign policy.  Could that be because the Executive Branch appears to be more at war with its own citizens than with enemies abroad?  Distracted by the unrealistic and destructive goals of a "Great Reset," the Biden administration is too busy with fundamental transformation of America according to leftist principles.  It appears to be in no mood to occupy itself with a confrontation with a government that is similarly leftist-minded — and one that appears to be highly influential in top U.S. government circles. 

Until the ideological war within America itself is settled in favor of the ideals of the constitutional republic it still purports to be, the fate of Afghanistan and much, much else will remain outside the control or even the purview of the United States.

Fay Voshell holds an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, which awarded her the prize for excellence in systematic theology.  Her thoughts have appeared in many online magazines.  She has been a contributor to American Thinker for a decade.  She may be reached at

Image via Pixabay.

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