China, Afghan Taliban forging closer relationship, says former diplomat

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As the power vacuum left by the United States following the hasty withdrawal of the Biden administration last year continues to be filled by some of America’s adversaries, the former Afghan ambassador to Washington said on Monday that the relationship between Beijing and the country’s Taliban leadership was evolving, describing it as a push-and-pull type, especially given fears of the spread of extremism in China.

Ambassador Roya Rahmani made the remarks at the Milken Institute’s annual global conference in Los Angeles. Asked about China’s relations with Afghanistan, she noted that “China continues to act in the same way as it has done. They (are) even a little closer to the Taliban”. Rahmani was her country’s ambassador to the United States until a month before last year’s withdrawal.

She noted that China was one of the countries that accepted the Taliban diplomatically and said that the Afghan embassy in China must “be manned” by Taliban representatives. Rahmani said Beijing’s main concern was the spread of extremism crossing the border. She noted that China’s relationship “is probably less about deals and more about their concern than about their concern, as they are also very aware of the potential threat of spreading extremism that can emanate from Afghanistan. They’re very nervous about it, and that’s what defines their relationship, so it’s a pull and push, and they want to make sure they keep them at bay to make sure no big threats. confronts them in the Xinjang region.

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A Taliban fighter secures the area as people line up for a cash distribution organized by the World Food Program in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 17, 2021.
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A Taliban fighter secures the area as people line up for a cash distribution organized by the World Food Program in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 17, 2021.
(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Since the Taliban took control of the country following the Biden administration’s decision to completely withdraw all US troops from the country last August, the country has faced economic collapse, and with the Taliban hunting down opponents and trampling on the rights of women and minorities, the country’s leaders were looking for friends.

William Lee, China expert and chief economist at the Milken Institute, told Fox News Digital that China has long had a policy of wanting to maintain political and social stability in the country. “China’s interest in Afghanistan is not just a move by the United States, but it’s a long-standing security issue.”

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Lee continued: “They want to make sure that there are no threats to internal stability coming from its Muslim minority population and one of the biggest fears within the Chinese government would be that the Muslim minorities would receive aid from countries sponsoring terrorists in the Middle East and neighboring countries would fuel the unrest that (its) Muslim population is already feeling.

This Muslim minority population is mostly dominated by Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, where China has been accused of genocide against the population. According to reports, up to three million Uyghur Muslims have been taken from their homes since 2017 by authorities and placed in prison camps, which Beijing says are re-education camps.

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Lee, who previously set up the IMF’s office in Hong Kong and worked there as a representative in the early 2000s to analyze China’s relationship with the United States and the rest of the world, warned that the sudden withdrawal had made losing to the United States “a great opportunity to have a listening post in this neighborhood by leaving Afghanistan, because the loss of military intelligence, political intelligence and social intelligence is, for me , probably one of the most devastating consequences of our failure in Afghanistan.”

Gordon Chang, a China expert, told Fox News Digital that he was not surprised by this development between the two countries: “It seems that the so-called red-green alliance is thriving in Central Asia. Criminals like to work together. be surprised that the Chinese Communist Party and the Afghan Taliban are cooperating even more closely than before?”

Chinese President Xi Jinping is said to be China's most authoritative leader in decades.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is said to be China’s most authoritative leader in decades.
(Wang Ye/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Chang, a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, pointed to Beijing’s role in the era of former non-Taliban leaders. “During the insurgency against the US-backed Afghan government, China supplied weapons to the Taliban. These weapons were used to kill US and NATO troops. Yes, China was working with our enemy then Now China continues to work with this enemy,” Chang concluded. “By the way, it was strategically and morally wrong for Washington not to impose costs on Beijing for helping to take American lives.”

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The United Nations estimates that more than 24 million Afghans are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 9 million facing emergency food insecurity. Adding to the chaos, a recent bombing campaign left some 77 dead, further showing the need for the Taliban to find much-needed friends, and it looks like China is listening.

Fox News’ David Aaro and Chris Massaro contributed to this report.

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