Letter From the Editors

We all know what the road to hell is paved with. This expression is particularly relevant for Afghanistan, which marks an uneasy two-year anniversary of the Taliban takeover this week. Expert Andrei Serenko writes that the Taliban’s jubilation over a victorious jihad is essentially the result of getting the US to blink first: “For 20 years, the Taliban jihad had been as unsuccessful as the Western military-political presence in Afghanistan. Washington was the first to run out of patience, and in the blink of an eye betrayed the republic’s government in Kabul, to which it, along with its NATO allies, had pledged eternal friendship for many years.”

The US’s hasty retreat from Afghanistan will certainly remain a dark page in the history of both countries – but for Afghanistan, there really seems to be no winning solution. Yet another Western intervention for the sake of democracy came to an ignominious end. However, the future still looks murky for the war-torn country. Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov summed up the situation aptly when he said that “by and large, the task is to survive.” With Western aid drying up, most Afghans are getting by any way they can – widows line up outside bakeries for free flatbread, and farmers still work the soil with rudimentary methods. “Westerners do not want to pay for the mess they left behind,” Zhirnov opines.

Niger, another impoverished nation, has also found itself in the limelight ever since a military coup deposed leader Mohamed Bazoum. Analyst Yelena Gorbachova writes that Bazoum may have been overthrown for his pro-France position. Niger, which has long been part of what is controversially known as Françafrique, apparently decided that its former colonizer didn’t have its best interests at heart. It’s hardly the first in the region: Similar coups have taken place in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea over the past several years. One contentious issue is terrorism. According to Gorbachova, “New governments in several West African nations think they can deal with the growing terrorist threat much better than the ineffective French.” In fact, many African nations believe the French were only feigning a fight against terrorism to secure their presence in the region.

Africans are clearly fed up with the “good intentions” of the former metropole. But do they have the resources to resolve these challenges within a regional framework? “Africa is going through a difficult period, confronted with a range of postcolonial – or neocolonial – challenges. African nations lack the proper experience of state-building. Administrative and other borders were drawn carelessly, often by colonizing powers. . . . And yet, gradually, local elites have begun to change their views regarding continental and geopolitical risks. They are more willing to take responsibility for the future of their continent,” writes Gorbachova.

That trend seems to be contagious. Take, for instance, BRICS, which has recently been gaining in clout. The group is set to expand at its upcoming summit in Johannesburg. But what unites this rather disparate group of countries? According to Fyodor Lukyanov, “These are large states, major players in their regions and, most importantly, they are in a position to pursue an independent policy in terms of their political-economic and military capabilities.” But their biggest distinction from alliances such as the G‑7, NATO and AUKUS? They are all countries of the non-West. The US is worried about this trend, and is trying to cobble together counteralliances in response, writes Vladimir Kulagin. For instance, a new tripartite one with Japan and South Korea – two countries that have their own difficult common history. No easy task, according to former Biden administration official Christopher Johnson, since “South Koreans do not really support [their] current president’s policy toward Japan, and the Japanese fear that the next administration in Seoul could take a different approach to bilateral relations.” Will Washington succeed? Or will we, in 20 years’ time, call this another ill-fated road of good intentions?