Three ways the victory of the Taliban might reverberate around the world

World leaders are racing to evacuate their citizens from Afghanistan after the Taliban’s lightning implications beyond its borders, analysts warn.

The capital of Kabul fell into the hands of the ultraconservative militants more than a week ago, marking the collapse of the civilian government as the U.S. withdrew its military presence ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline.

The international community will likely have to confront three issues as the Taliban’s takeover reverberates across the globe, experts told CNBC.

They include: a rise in terrorism activities, an influx of refugees as Afghans flee violence and persecution, as well as escalating tensions between India and its neighbors, Pakistan and China.

  • Rise in terrorism
    Afghanistan could once again become a “hotbed” for terrorism, providing sanctuary for extremists, experts warned.

The Taliban have “never broken” their alliance with al-Qaeda over the last two decades despite military pressure and two years of negotiations in Qatar, according to Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security.

A United Nations report this year reached a similar conclusion: It said the Taliban and al-Qaeda “remain closely aligned and show no indication of breaking ties.” The Taliban previously refuted those claims.


Taliban’s control of Afghanistan could prompt a rise in terrorism: Expert
The militant group has said it would not allow other terrorist organizations to use Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks, but some analysts expressed doubts over its pledge.

“The Taliban doesn’t really stick to its ideals. We will have to wait and see,” Amir Handjani, a fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” last Tuesday.

As the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, it reportedly released about 5,000 to 7,000 prisoners from Parwan prison — some of whom are hardened Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

Fontaine explained that the thinking in the U.S. is that it can handle any potential threats from outside Afghanistan. “We’ll see how effective that is, if it comes to that. But I think it’s something of a gamble,” he added.

Afghanistan was a haven for terrorist groups when the Taliban were in power in the late 1990s. But the U.S. invaded the country in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Former U.S. national security advisor John Bolton told CNBC last week that the U.S. invasion was targeted at ousting the Taliban and the “sanctuary they had provided to al-Qaeda.”

  • Refugee crisis
    There are growing fears of an impending refugee crisis — much like the one from 2015, when more than a million refugees fled the war in Syria to seek refuge in Europe.

“You are likely to have an influx of refugees pretty much anywhere the [Afghans] can go,” said Shamaila Khan, director of emerging market debt at AllianceBernstein.

“We can see from the pictures that have emerged from Kabul airport that they are desperate to leave, so if they can find a route to any of these countries, they will go,” she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” last Tuesday.

Scenes of thousands of Afghans at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, desperate to escape the country, flooded social media and grabbed media headlines last week. One video showed a U.S. military aircraft attempting to take off as Afghans ran alongside and clung to the exterior of the plane as it lifted off.


Pakistan may not be able to bear the brunt of more refugees: Minister
The refugee flows following Afghanistan’s collapse “could rival Syria’s in volume,” Fontaine of CNAS said in a press note written before Kabul fell to the Taliban.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 6.6 million Syrians have fled their country since 2011.

The agency estimates that at least 550,000 Afghans have been internally displaced as a result of conflict and insecurity this year. While civilians have so far only fled sporadically in fewer numbers to neighboring countries, the UNHCR pointed out that trend is likely to change as the situation in Afghanistan evolves.

Analysts from Eurasia Group, however, said in a recent note that the European Union’s concerns about an influx of Afghan refugees may be overblown since the bloc has taken steps to reduce irregular migration.

Additionally, anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey — where many refugees normally travel through — could mean President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may take a tougher stance against migrants. Any refugee influx that reaches the EU will likely be “manageable,” Eurasia Group said.

  • Regional instability
    The political chaos in Afghanistan could spill into neighboring countries, and potentially exacerbate tensions between India and its neighbors, Pakistan and China.

Indian analysts are worried that the Taliban’s return may create space for terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed to launch attacks against Indian targets, according to Elizabeth Threlkeld, senior fellow and deputy director of the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center.

“They also recognize that a Taliban government would give Pakistan significant influence in Kabul to India’s detriment,” she told CNBC.

India appears to have adopted a wait-and-see approach for now. If an attack against Indian targets were to originate from Afghanistan, New Delhi would almost “certainly point the finger of blame at Islamabad,” explained Threlkeld, who was previously a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department in Pakistan.


“The result [will] be an India-Pakistan crisis with dangerous escalatory potential,” she said, adding it will likely be easier for Pakistan and China to seek deals with the Taliban to ensure their security.

While India has reportedly made efforts to engage with the Taliban, experts say it will be harder for New Delhi to secure similar deals to those with Pakistan and China. India’s political willingness to do so would also be less, they added.

If renewed instability in Afghanistan spreads to Pakistan, India may also be compelled to shore up its defenses along the western border — that may limit New Delhi’s attention and resources to respond to Beijing’s military pressure, according to Eurasia Group.

Threlkeld pointed out that although neighboring countries are wise to be concerned, it is still “too soon to say how significant the terrorist threat from a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan will be.”

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