A Taliban spokesman told AFP that “Afghan soil would not be used against the security of any country”, noting that the group is clear that its advance is becoming a matter of regional concern. On the other hand, in recent days a diplomatic delegation made up of some insurgent commanders (led by the co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar ) met the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi . Ensuring that what happens in Afghanistan will not become a security problem for China, Baradar and his have addressed several issues with Chinese officials.
Beijing finds itself in an ambiguous condition: if on the one hand the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghan soil is seen as an opportunity to push one’s influence, on the other the risks are evident. The exit of the American and NATO units from the country created the prerequisite for an increase in the military activities of the Taliban, who now control large swathes of territory and almost all the crossing points with Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and part of those with Pakistan.
China has an interest in connecting Afghanistan to Pakistan and widening the corridor by which the Belt & Road Initiative deviates from Eurasia to flow into the Indian Ocean. But Beijing does not want to transform this interest into an active involvement in the security dynamics of the region. For this reason, for some time now, the Chinese government has begun to engage in direct dialogue with the Afghan rebel group. Dialogue moved at the same time as that carried out with Kabul (on which, moreover, it relies on).
China will have to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban with a worrying statement that makes it clear how central their weight is in the country’s future. Beijing seems to offer a counterpart: the Afghan group will have to deal with repressing the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, a “direct threat to China’s national security” according to the readout of the meeting provided by Beijing.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry refers to a group that China claims is active in the Xinjiang region in the far west, where the Wakhan River shaft marks the Sino-Afghan border. However, Beijing fears that the activities of the Taliban could be taken as an example for the Xinjiang separatists, against whom it has ordered a cultural re-education campaign (including through security methods and predictive police) aimed basically at avoiding insurgency phenomena.
Taliban leaders have stepped up their international diplomacy in recent months, seeking global recognition for when they hope to return to power. The meeting on Wednesday in the Chinese city of Tianjin, which the spokesman for the Taliban said was organized by the Chinese authorities, is a recognition of this legitimacy offered by Beijing. On the other hand, the Chinese interest is not too different from the American one: the ultra-pragmatic acceptance of an existing reality brings with it arrangements.
In the withdrawal agreement – reached by the Trump administration, facilitated by Qatar, carried out by the Biden presidency – the Taliban accepted the American request to break links with al Qaeda and fight the local branch of the Islamic State, but they also put it was clear that operations against the Afghan government would continue. “China reaffirmed its commitment to continue its assistance with the Afghans and said it will not interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan, but will help solve problems and restore peace in the country,” said the Taliban spokesman. message clearly also for propaganda purposes.
“China has always adhered to non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan”, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said with the same purpose: “Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people”. The “hasty” withdrawal of the United States and NATO “reveals the failure of American policies and offers the Afghan people an important opportunity to stabilize and develop their country”.
The Chinese ministry has published a photo of the meeting with a classic diplomatic iconography. On the other hand, dialogue with the Taliban began, albeit under a trace, as early as 2005. “The Taliban are a fundamental military and political force in Afghanistan and are expected to play an important role in the ongoing peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process” Wang said.
An aside: even the most extreme realism is fine, but perhaps in front of certain words it is useful to remember that the Taliban are a jihadist terrorist organization; they carry out attacks on the security forces as a form of insurgency but do not discriminate against civilian targets for acts of terrorism; they believe in the stricter application of sharia law, with the elimination of many rights that this entails. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that if Afghanistan comes under the control of the group it will inevitably be considered a “pariah state”. End of the engraving.
The Taliban visit to Tianjin cannot be separated from another meeting in China in recent days: the visit to Beijing by the Pakistani foreign minister and intelligence chief. Pakistan is seen as the key to peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership is based in Pakistan and Islamabad has used its influence, albeit currently somewhat waning, to move various Taliban-related dynamics.
For China, an ally of Islamabad for a long time, the need to connect the two dossiers is practical: as mentioned there is the BRI, and then in Pakistan it finds support on the dialogue with the Afghan insurgents, and uniting Afghanistan with Pakistan allows to Beijing to increase the size of the bloc that places it ahead of rival India.
Another important meeting on this front was that between the US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman , with Minister Wang – also in Tianjin on Monday. After the meeting, the State Department included Afghanistan in the list of “areas of global concern” on which the United States and China could cooperate. Beijing is now trying to move forward on a dossier in which the US has had an advantage for years, albeit not linear.

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