Afghanistan’s history is replete with wars and other violent conflicts. Throughout its long and turbulent history, Afghanistan has looked more like a tribal confederacy than a cohesive nation-state. Afghanistan’s emerging outlook remains uncertain due to competing interests of the stakeholders and internal political dynamics. The land locked country is facing a complex internal situation with serious ramifications for the region in general and its neighbours in particular. Ongoing peace process and efforts to create reconciliation amongst various factions are critical challenges meriting well thought out response by the key players, through intelligent scenario forecasting and response initiation. It is rather an unfortunate fact that the war torn Afghanistan has been an area used by multiple global players for their self interests. Already dysfunctional governments, interest of multiple internal and external groups, dwelling of various terrorist organizations and the inclusion of multiple countries in the state of affairs have resulted in painting a bleak outlook of the country. From the Soviet defeat in the eighties to the War on Terror today, it is the U.S. who has over two decades made Afghanistan what it is today. Certain global players have exploited the country for their own interests, and it seems that Afghanistan is a game of musical chairs, with the players contesting for influence, leaving and coming into the affairs of the country turn by turn, whenever possible. In the current scenario, finally after 17 years the US has decided to quit Afghanistan while initiating a peace process within the country. They wish to hold peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and conclude their war on terror. One round of talks has already occurred, and with the US exiting, a change has been seen in Kabul’s fate. Emerging stated and unstated interests following the US exit of some regional players are as follows: China has drastically increased its influence in Afghanistan. They will reportedly train Afghan troops for deployment in the Wakhan Corridor, which links the Afghan province of Badakshan with western China. It is also considering Afghanistan’s request for combat aircrafts. These are the latest developments in the growing military relationship. Beijing has granted $70 million in military aid to Kabul over the past three years. China has also held meetings with Afghan Taliban representatives over the past year, and was rumoured (alongside Pakistan) to have brokered and guaranteed the Eid-ul Fitr ceasefire. China’s role in Afghanistan is focused on exploiting economic opportunities rather than getting entangled in a deteriorating social or security environment. The main interest will be the protection of Chinese interests vis-a-vis US. China has already acquired a 30 years’ lease for the Aynak Copper mines, and is interested to secure further rights to mine precious metals China has stated that it believes that only an inclusive reconciliation process that is “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” can provide the ultimate solution to the Afghanistan issue. China wishes to forge strategic and cooperative partnership with Afghanistan, curtail the spread of extremism into Chinese territory and engage Afghanistan on the Road and Belt Initiative and the revival of Silk Road. They also need a stable and peaceful Afghanistan for regional stability and economic integration, along with large scale investments to explore untapped mineral resources within the country and keep a check on extremist elements. The main interest is the protection of Chinese interests vis-a-vis US. China has already acquired a 30 years’ lease for the Aynak Copper mines, and is interested to secure further rights to mine precious metals and earth. They will also assist Pakistan in an effort to contain India’s growing influence in Afghanistan, as well as end the long lasting US hegemony in Kabul and the South Asian region. Then comes Russia, which is a resurgent power, and is averse to any potential trouble or challenges emanating from its immediate neighbourhood. At present, Russia’s interests in Afghanistan include curtailing the growing influence of non-state actors in Afghanistan, such as ISIS and its spread into Russian territories, reducing the inflow of narcotics into Russia and establishing a stable Afghanistan as a buffer between the Greater Middle East and Central Asia. They also want to pursue President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist ideas to restore Russia’s position as a geopolitical player and counter or limit US presence in the region. India also has a strategy for Afghanistan that is mainly driven by Chanakya Kautilya’s philosophy of “your neighbour is your natural enemy and the neighbour’s neighbour is your friend”. With the Taliban ousted and pro Indian government installed in Kabul, India is pursuing a forward looking policy and perceives its interests not only in terms of the rivalry with Pakistan but also in the regional context. Indian interests in Afghanistan are centred on exercising a greater role in Afghanistan as a key regional player, influencing political, social, economic and military developments in the country to prevent issues between the Taliban Afghan Government, as well as to capture potential Afghan market for export of cheaper Indian goods. India also want to isolate and destabilize Pakistan by creating a two front war. They also want to secure transit corridors that connect the oil and gas rich Central and West Asian regions through Iran, as well as play a key role in CARs, exploit international anti-terrorism sentiments to its advantage, limit China in gaining access to the entire mineral and energy resources in Central Asia and Afghanistan and to exploit Afghan untapped energy and mineral resources and utilize those for their own economic gains. As far as Pakistan is concerned, their primary interest is to have a peaceful and stable Afghanistan with an inclusive government in Kabul giving due share and power to all factions of society. They also want to reduce Indian influence and counter TTP / BLA and anti-government militants seeking refuge in Afghanistan, along with greater trade opportunities with CARs, optimizing benefits of CPEC, repatriation for over 1.7 million registered and equal number of un-registered Afghan refugees, deterioration in law and order and elaborate border security mechanisms to control terrorism, drug trafficking and trans-national smuggling through Afghanistan. Afghanistan is perceived as an area of competing global players for their interests, and in this environment a peace process and rebuilding efforts seem pointless. As stated earlier, the country has become a game of musical chairs, with every global power trying to take the seat of power for their own self interest, while Afghanistan itself struggles for sovereignty, stability and peace. The writer is a researcher with Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad, a student of International Relations from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad and a former exchange student to the US for the course of Leadership and Social Justice Published in Daily Times, September 21st 2018.