Afghans celebrated the new access that Iran’s Chabahar port provides the country, but this victory may turn out to be a pyrrhic one. As recent as May 2016, India, Iran, and Afghanistan signed their first-ever trilateral partnership agreement allowing Indian goods to reach Afghanistan and Central Asia via Iran, while also inserting new geopolitically competing players into the region. Over one year later, in October 2017, the first shipment of Indian wheat arrived in Zaranj, Afghanistan, via Chabahar port.
On August 21, President Donald Trump outlined his strategy for U.S. engagement in Afghanistan. While fully admitting his reluctance to increase current levels of support for the Afghan government and army, the president identified America’s core interests there. The “honorable and enduring outcome” that he mentioned in the speech is open to multiple interpretations, but the risk of a rapid withdrawal is not. It would lead to the collapse of the country’s central authority, thereby expanding fallow soil for global terror networks’ operations. Politically, the stakes are high. Significant gains against the Taliban and cohorts in Afghanistan would give Trump’s record a boost. After this speech, the fruits of victory or the spoils of defeat in Afghanistan rest squarely on Trump’s shoulders.