The Afghanistan-GCC Web: to Weave or unWeave?

By Scott Morgan 

One of the main Security Challenges thus far in the 21st Century has to be the situation in Afghanistan. How one of the key flash points during the dying days of the Cold War is still relevant at this time has to be looked into.

One group who has had an interesting role in this conflict is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Members of the group have been active since 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded the Country on Christmas Day. Some provided funding and others (working with the United States and other allies) provided Arms to support the rebels who would later form the nucleus of Al-Qaeda

The Government that followed the Soviet exit was not able to exert much influence outside the Capital of Kabul. The Taliban - who came into being when the Mujahideen remained in the Country - were able to oust the Government after several years of struggle. 

During this time there was another interesting period of GCC Diplomacy regarding Afghanistan. The United Arab Emirates was one of the two nations (Pakistan being the other) which offered Diplomatic Recognition to what was called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It also provided one of the few airlinks to provide direct service to Kabul. However, the use of cash in the Emirates has made its way to Afghanistan to support the Taliban and other warlords. The UAE did set up a joint Task Force to work with elements of the US Government to arrest the illicit flows of cash.

Another member of the Council that has an interesting relationship with Afghanistan is Qatar. In recent years the Emirate has been the location of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan Government. This has been a effort of the country since 2012 with participation of the United States during the talks. In recent weeks, the Taliban have been able to launch an offensive to recapture territory that was lost to them after the US Invasion in 2001. 

However, one council member that Afghanistan has sought close ties with has been Kuwait. We know that the Karzai Government worked to establish these ties by interacting with the Emirate during Economic Conferences. During Operation Enduring Freedom Kuwait did allow for other participants of the coalition to base troops and to overfly its territory while conducting Military Operations. How this relationship fosters could be one of the most critical acts of Diplomacy in the region as certain tensions rise.

A fourth council member which has had a unique role to play in the Afghan Drama, since it unfolded, is Saudi Arabia. From the early days of the successful insurgency against the Red Army the Kingdom was a major source of revenue for the rebels as well as sending fighters to the conflict. However, currently there is another concern regarding Saudi policy towards Afghanistan.

It is no secret that there is a proxy war going on between Riyadh and Tehran. In some cases this conflict has been waged using cash like in Sudan. There has been the exploitation of conflicts in strategic locales such as Syria and Yemen as well. It is becoming clear that Afghanistan may be the next location of a proxy war between these two ideological foes. It also appears that KSA is trying to present itself as a unifier of the Sunni Sect of Islam as well throughout the Muslim World to offset the moves of the Shi’a which are using Tehran as a powerbase.

It is sad to see that in the period from 1979 to 2017 that the Political Climate within Afghanistan has not changed that much. It appears that all roads into the country pass through Pakistan. The Rebels used the country to maintain a series of bases. That relationship between the ISI (Inter-Service Intelligence) and the Taliban continues unabated. Therefore the relationship between the GCC and Pakistan will have to be monitored to determine Which Country supports what specific segment of Pakistan to influence policy in Afghanistan.

The Previous links between the Saudis and Al-Qaeda/Taliban and the alleged Qatari links with ISIS have been a motivating factor for Russia to reemerge as a player in Afghanistan. The Putin Government has seen fit to hold talks with the Taliban about the emergence of ISIS in the Eastern part of the Country. It is clear that Moscow does not like what they see taking place in the Eastern Part of Afghanistan.

There is unique opportunity for the Trump Administration as well. It is not known exactly how the Afghanistan war will be handled in Washington. Clearly this is an opportunity for some cooperation between Washington and the GCC to foster stability in Afghanistan. A joint coordination in talks with the Taliban appears to be in order. The reverse is true as well. The GCC could be a conduit as well to provide insight into the new Administration as well. 

(Image: Taliban - AFP)

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. But if some member states of the GCC are funding radicals in ME how can we be sure they are not funding the Taliban too? Then what the hell is Trump administration going to coordinate exactly?

  2. I wonder if the Qatari involvement won't worsen the situation. We know this country supports radical groups as her Foreign Policy instruments, so I'm not sure the US should encourage their involvement. The Trump administration should find a way of perhaps engaging the more reasonable Gulf States in this problem in order to solve it. But it would take a bit of time and patience...


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