Taliban look to China for reinforcements

Insurgents begin to prepare their alliances ahead of a possible rise to power
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PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Taliban political bureau members Abdul Latif Mansoor (L), Shahabuddin Delawar (C) and Suhail Shaheen

A Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has visited China, where it met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as well as China's deputy foreign minister and special representative for Afghanistan in order to legitimise its role in the Central Asian country.

The insurgents' political spokesman, Naeem Wardak, announced on his Twitter account that a nine-member delegation had arrived in China at the express invitation of the Chinese authorities. This trip to China is one more in a series of visits that the insurgents have made in recent months to various neighbouring countries. The latest was on 7 July, when a Taliban delegation visited Iran to discuss "bilateral issues".

According to the Taliban spokesman himself, during the meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, they discussed "political, economic and security issues related to the two countries, as well as the current situation in Afghanistan and the peace process". The delegation "assured China that Afghan territory will not be used against the security of any country", Wardak said.

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REUTERS/PARWIZ - Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint recaptured from the Taliban

"China also reiterated its commitment to continue its assistance to the Afghans and said they will not interfere in Afghanistan's affairs, but will help resolve the problems and restore peace in the country," the Taliban spokesman concluded. China and Afghanistan share a narrow border of about 60 km, and the Asian giant is seeking to prevent this area from being affected by instability in the neighbouring country.

For his part, the Chinese foreign minister stressed that he expects the Taliban to "deal decisively" with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which he considers a "direct threat to China's national security", referring to a group that Beijing says is active in the Xinjiang region in the far west of the country. Beijing has said it fears that neighbouring Afghanistan could be used as a foothold for the separatists.

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PHOTO/ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICJHENKO via REUTERS - Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban deputy leader and negotiator, and other delegation members attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow, Russia

The Taliban delegation's visit to China is part of a rapid advance by the insurgents in Afghanistan since US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of all US troops from the Central Asian country in April. The withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan began in May and the Taliban took advantage of the situation to launch an offensive with which they have managed to dominate around 125 of the 407 districts that make up the country.

During the meeting between the insurgents and China, the latter referred to what it considers the "failure of US policy towards Afghanistan", in contrast to Beijing's position of "non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people", said the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

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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 September 4, 2018 in Beijing, China

Beijing sees the departure of US troops from Afghanistan as a "victory" that could facilitate the expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan and across the Central Asian republics. In the same vein, the Asian giant could establish a strategic corridor that would allow it, together with its old ally Pakistan, to exert more pressure against its common rival, India.

On the sidelines of the meeting between the Taliban delegation and senior Chinese officials, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on an official visit to India, has warned that Afghanistan will become a "pariah state" if the Taliban take control by force. "The Taliban say they seek international recognition, they want international support for Afghanistan. Presumably, they want their leaders to be able to travel freely around the world, sanctions to be lifted and so on," he told reporters.

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

Meanwhile, violence in Afghanistan persists and, according to a report published by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), civilian casualties have increased by 47% in the Central Asian country during the first half of the year, coinciding with the withdrawal of international troops from the country. At least 1,659 people have been killed and 3,254 wounded between January and June this year as a result of the conflict, according to UNAMA.