The Great Game: Russia, China Benefit from Afghanistan Oil

An Apache helicopter flies over Afghanistan landscape (Andre Klimke/Unsplash)

November 2, 2022

Afghanistan oil is the centripetal force around what may disputably be called “The Great Game.” Decades of oil politics are coming home to roost in Afghanistan amid the looming global oil crisis. Russia and China are now poised to take advantage of Taliban oil control, as new oil resources are discovered in Afghanistan, and as the Taliban negotiates business deals with neighboring countries. 

The Taliban claimed to discover new oil deposits in the Tangi-Bezbai area of Bala Murghab district on October 26, according to a report by the Bakhtar news agency quoting the Taliban head of mines and petroleum in Baghdis province.  

Following the American and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban has sought to secure control over the Afghan nation with support from Russia and China who are pursuing diplomatic relations with the Taliban militia group. 

Russian and Chinese analysts compare the Taliban as “the lesser of two evils,” to Pashtun nationalist resistance groups and ISIS groups. Russia and China consider Pashtun resistance forces, Turkmen nationalists, and ISIS as direct threats to their economic prospects in the region. 

“In the short term, it will apparently be China that will bring more or less order in Afghanistan: after all, there is a direct connection between the situation in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, which is the most important element of the “New Silk Road”—and which also reigns frank mess, on the verge of the collapse of the state,” wrote Russian analyst Mikhail Tokmokov, in a review for, according to an English translation. 

“A new plunge into chaos in Afghanistan could start a devastating chain reaction that will lead to the loss of multibillion-dollar investments and undermine China’s long-term plans,” Tokmokov continued.  

“In addition, a big war of all against all in Afghanistan and Pakistan could hypothetically lead to the leakage of Pakistani nuclear weapons and their falling into the hands of the Taliban, or even IS, with an obvious consequence.” 

Earth Island Journal publisher Gar Smith wrote that Afghanistan has been a major focal point of long-game oil politics. 

In 1998, Dick Cheney described the major significance of the greater Caspian Sea region in Central Asia as the “strategically significant” emerger in oil politics. Dick Cheney, vice president to former President George W. Bush was, at that time, the CEO of Halliburton Oil Company. 

Political analysts reasoned that a pipeline for Caspian crude would need to pass through Iran, which is the political nemesis of the United States, especially amid increasing tensions between the two countries as the Biden administration fails to negotiate a nuclear agreement.  

Smith wrote that allowing the anti-Iranian policy to win in Afghanistan was considered a strategic advantage to secure an oil pipeline through the Afghan territory. The political struggle for oil and other natural resources in Afghanistan  is called “the Great Game.” 

By making diplomatic advances in Afghanistan, Russia and China are securing a strong position in “the Great Game.” 


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