Afghanistan was rocked by a number of bombings on Tuesday, killing nearly 60 people in total. All were done by the Taliban — except, apparently, the one that hit Kandahar, which targeted the province governor’s guest house and killed 11, including a deputy governor and five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Taliban denied carrying out that attack, even while claiming credit for the others; and indeed, it would be strange if they were responsible, considered the relatively pleasant history between the Taliban and the UAE. They, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, were the first (and only) countries to recognize the Taliban government in the late ’90s.
But then again, the UAE hasn’t exactly been a overt supporter of the Taliban since then — on the contrary, they’ve been a major ally of US/NATO military operations in Afghanistan. The UAE has been the only Arab country to engage in full combat operations in the country. Economic ties, often parceled with counterinsurgency strategy, are also important; late last year the Afghan government was attempting to coax some $6 billion in energy and infrastructure investments from UAE companies.
This also raises a point about the general presence of the UAE across the Greater Middle East. They’ve carried out direct military operations in Libya, and were a major partner of Saudi Arabia in Yemen in the war against the Houthis and the counterinsurgency campaign against al-Qaeda. And let’s not forget its immense economic power in the region’s banking, telecom, and logistics sectors, which rivals that of Saudi Arabia. Its worth keeping an eye on the UAE and its role in governing contemporary imperialism, particularly as US and Saudi relations become increasingly icy.