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China maintains its support for the Taliban as it looks with concern at possible rise of extremism in the region

Beijing has promised to help the insurgents rebuild the country in return for them securing their investments and not turning Afghanistan into a terrorist base
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PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit-Roundtable at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sept. 4, 2018 in Beijing, China.

After almost a week in power, the Taliban are beginning to organise their government. In the last few days we have also seen how the insurgents have organised a media propaganda campaign for the international community, feigning a change of attitude. They have promised amnesty, rights for women and one of their leaders has even been interviewed by a journalist. All these movements seek to create a false mask in order to seek external support, and, unfortunately, some countries or international media may fall for this false "moderation". "The Taliban are not moderate. When the last American soldier leaves, the regime of terror and darkness will prevail," says Pilar Requena, an international journalist. 

On the other hand, some countries are willing to support the Taliban unconditionally, simply because of economic or strategic interests. China, for example, seeks to exploit Afghanistan's valuable natural resources. Beijing is also concerned that Afghanistan could become a haven for the more radical Uighurs, an ethnic group with which it is strongly opposed. Years ago, on the China-Afghanistan border, members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) organised and planned some of the worst attacks the Asian giant has suffered. The rise of extremism in the region, such as in Pakistan, where many quarters have celebrated the Taliban victory, is of particular concern to China. Beijing's goal is to secure its investments in Afghanistan, and the only people who can do that at present are the Taliban. 

In late July, in the face of the insurgents' rapid advance in the country, the Chinese executive received a Taliban delegation led by Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tiajin. With the extremists' victory becoming an increasingly real scenario, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for protection and security for Chinese investments and citizens in the country. He also urged Baradar not to create a base for terrorists. In return, China offered to help rebuild the country and create infrastructure, as well as recognise the Taliban government. "China is ready to develop friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan and to play a constructive role," the Foreign Ministry announced. Another important issue for China is the New Silk Road, where it hopes to involve Afghanistan in the project.

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PHOTO/LI RAN/XINHUA via AP -  Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photo during their meeting in Tianjin, China.

Since then, China has continued its rapprochement with the Taliban. Hours after the movement announced its victory over Afghanistan, Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said Beijing was ready for "friendly cooperation with Afghanistan". "China respects the right of the people of Afghanistan to autonomously determine their own destiny and wishes for a smooth transition," she said. He also admitted to having maintained "contact and communication" with the Taliban. All this support has led the insurgents to vow not to allow "anyone to use Afghan territory against China", as Mohamed Naim, a spokesman for the movement, put it.

As the Taliban organise the country's new political structure, Beijing continues to praise the new regime, calling the insurgents "calmer and more rational". It also calls on the rest of the international community to be "more objective" in judging the Afghan situation. In recent days, several protests have erupted in Afghan cities such as Jalalabad and Asadabad. The way in which the Taliban suppressed these demonstrations, leaving several dead and dozens wounded, demonstrates their still violent character, despite their attempt at a facelift. Women, one of the sectors of the population that will suffer most from the new Taliban phase, have also denounced brutal practices by the extremists.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Afghan men carry the body of a civilian in a hospital after an attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

In addition to its political support for the Taliban, China has taken the opportunity to attack the US and the chaos caused by its withdrawal, which Beijing says has had "a serious negative impact". However, a Foreign Ministry statement announced that the government is "willing to engage in dialogue with the United States to promote a soft approach to the Afghan issue so that there is no new civil war, no humanitarian disaster and it does not become a haven for terrorism".

Criticism of the disastrous US withdrawal has not only come from China. Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, now in exile in the United Arab Emirates, stressed that the current situation of violence "is due to the sudden decision to withdraw international troops". Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also called the US mission in Afghanistan a "failure". "It is recognised by everyone, including the United States," he said.

Russia ready to support its former Soviet allies  

As the US evacuated its embassy staff in Kabul Saigon-style, Russia was one of the first countries to announce that it would maintain its diplomatic delegation in the Afghan capital. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said they would ensure safe conditions for the operation of Russian and other embassies, according to the Russian news agency TASS. Moscow has backed the Taliban's decision to hold talks with other politicians, as well as welcoming their "moderate" character compared to the movement years earlier. "They have declared an amnesty and say they will allow women to work. They want Afghanistan to function as a civilised country," Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the International Affairs Committee in the Russian Senate, told EFE. Even so, Moscow has not yet recognised the new regime and still maintains the Taliban movement on the list of terrorist organisations. "We are not in a hurry to recognise it," Lavrov said. On the other hand, Dzhabarov pointed out that "recognition is inevitable".

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AFP PHOTO - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses members of the US, Chinese, Afghan and Taliban delegations at the start of an international conference on Afghanistan on the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Moscow on 18 March 2021.

The countries across Afghanistan's northern border: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, former Soviet nations and allies of Moscow, are among the Kremlin's concerns. "After the seizure of Kabul, the representatives of the Taliban movement will take a short break and in the future will carry out provocative and aggressive actions against the countries bordering Afghanistan," said Yuri Shvitkin, deputy chairman of the Defence Committee. For Shvitkin, Tajikistan is the country that "is in the greatest danger at the moment", as there are many supporters of the Taliban movement. In view of this threat, Russian troops have moved into the country to begin military exercises, as reported by the Russian media Sputnik. Tajikistan is home to the largest Russian military base abroad, close to the Afghan border. It is home to some 6,000 troops, tanks, drones and helicopters. 

In contrast, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are in a more favourable situation. While Tashkent maintains large military forces on the border, Ashgabat is supported by China. 

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AP/SHEKIB RAHMANI - Hundreds of people gather near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane on the perimeter of the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.

During the recent meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Afghan issue was one of the main topics. Putin warned against outside interference while stressing "preventing the disintegration of the Afghan state", reports EFE. Merkel, for her part, admitted that there should be "dialogue with the Taliban", as well as saving those who want to leave the country.

Chaos continues at Kabul airport

Returning to Afghan territory, it is necessary to highlight the situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, where thousands of Afghans are still trying to flee the country. A new day of despair and chaos began this morning. Sources from the British channel Sky News have assured that it is the "worst day so far".