A top-level Taliban delegation visiting China on Wednesday assured Beijing the group wouldn’t allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for plotting against another country.
The delegation is in China for talks with Beijing officials, because the insurgents continue a sweeping offensive across Afghanistan — including in areas along their shared border.
Their frontier is simply 76 kilometers long — and at a rugged high altitude without a road crossing — but Beijing fears Afghanistan might be used as a staging ground for Uyghur separatists in Xinjiang.
Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said those concerns were unfounded. “The Islamic Emirate assured China that Afghanistan’s soil wouldn’t be used against any country’s security.
“They (China) promised to not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs, but instead help to unravel problems and convey peace.”
For its part, China told the Taliban delegation it expected the insurgent group to play a crucial role in ending Afghanistan’s war and rebuilding the country, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Nine Taliban representatives met secretary of state Wang Yi and therefore the two sides discussed the Afghan social process and security issues, the Taliban spokesperson said.
Wang said the Taliban were expected to “play a crucial role within the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”, consistent with a readout of the meeting from the foreign ministry.
He also said that he hoped the Taliban would clamp down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement because it was a “direct threat to China’s national security,” consistent with the readout, pertaining to a gaggle China says is active within the Xinjiang region in China’s far west.
The meeting within the Chinese city of Tianjin, which Naeem said was at the invitation from Chinese authorities, was widely seen as a present from Beijing to the insurgent group. The visit, therefore, is probably going to further cement the group’s recognition on the international stage at a sensitive time whilst violence increases in Afghanistan.
The militants have a political office in Qatar where peace talks are happening and this month they sent representatives to Iran were that they had meetings with an Afghan government delegation.
Naeem added that the delegation, led by Taliban negotiator and deputy leader Mullah Baradar, was also meeting China’s special envoy for Afghanistan.
Security in Afghanistan has been deteriorating fast because us withdraws its troops by September. The Taliban have launched a flurry of offensives, taking districts and border crossings around the country while peace talks in Qatar’s capital haven’t made substantive progress.
In Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani urged the international community “to review the narrative of the willingness of the Taliban and their supporters on embracing a political solution”.
“In terms of scale, scope and timing, we face an invasion that’s unprecedented within the last 30 years,” he warned during a speech on Wednesday.
“These aren’t the Taliban of the 20th century… but the manifestation of the nexus between transnational terrorist networks and transnational criminal organizations.” Analysts say China, whose stated policy position is non-interference in other countries’ issues, is queasy about the religiosity of the Taliban given their proximity to the Xinjiang province.
But the meeting gifts legitimacy to an insurgent group craving international recognition — and a possible diplomatic shield at the UN — to match their military music across the state.
“Wang Yi acknowledged, the Afghan Taliban may be a crucial military and political force in Afghanistan,” Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesman told reporters in Beijing.
“China has throughout adhered to non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs… Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people,” he said, in stark contrast to the “failure folks policy towards Afghanistan”.
“Afghan people have a crucial opportunity to stabilize and develop their own country.”
Communist Party leaders in Beijing and therefore the Taliban have little ideological footing, but experts feel shared pragmatism could see mutual self-interest trump sensitive differences.
For Beijing, a stable and cooperative administration in Kabul would pave the way for an expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan and thru the Central Asian republics.
The Taliban, meanwhile, would consider China an important source of investment and economic support.
“By getting the Chinese on their side, the Chinese would be ready to provide them with diplomatic cover at the safety Council,” Australia-based Afghanistan expert Nishank Motwani said.
“It is vital to notice … when other countries open up their doors and have interaction with the Taliban it undercuts the legitimacy of the Afghan government and presents the Taliban almost as a government in waiting.”