China Hosts Taliban Delegation to Enlarge Role in Afghanistan

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, left, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban's chief negotiator speak to the media Russia, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, and a delegation of Taliban are in Moscow where they are meeting other Afghans …
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

A Taliban delegation recently traveled to Beijing to discuss U.S.-backed peace efforts as well as “mutual” counterterrorism concerns in Afghanistan, the Chinese foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday.

Indian media reported that New Delhi’s rival Beijing hosted the delegation — led by the Taliban’s political deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar — in a bid to expand its role in Afghanistan, which is expected to house projects from Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Asked about the Taliban’s visit on Thursday, Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that the two sides exchanged views “on Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process, counter-terrorism and other issues of mutual interest.”

China has expressed support for intensified negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan — raging since October 2001.

Kang noted:

We support intra-Afghan dialogue and broad, inclusive peace and reconciliation that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. The Chinese side exchanged views with Mr. Baradar based on our consistent position, which is part of our efforts in promoting peace and facilitating talks between relevant parties.

Both sides agree to stay in communication and cooperation for the political settlement of the Afghan issue and counter-terrorism. For the early realization of peace, reconciliation, stability, and development in Afghanistan, China will continue to conduct talks and coordination with relevant parties through various means.

The Pentagon has long accused China’s close ally Pakistan of harboring the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has taken credit for facilitating the ongoing peace talks.

The Trump administration has intensified peace-seeking efforts over the last year, making the political reconciliation between Afghanistan and Kabul the primary goal of its strategy to end the nearly 18-year-old war. Nevertheless, the Taliban’s refusal to allow Kabul to participate in the ongoing negotiations has surfaced as the primary hurdle to the talks.

Taliban narco-jihadis, who are fighting to establish a sharia-compliant Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, consider themselves the only legitimate government of Afghanistan, dismissing Kabul as an American “puppet.”

The Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies maintain an affiliation with Chinese Uighur jihadis who operate and train in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, which the Pentagon believes to be home to the highest concentration of terrorist groups in the world, including the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

Beijing, however, has expressed support for the Taliban despite its ongoing relationship with al-Qaeda, which, along with ISIS, has threatened to attack China.

The Muslim-majority Chinese province of Xinjiang borders Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a region claimed by Islamabad, its ally Beijing, and their rival New Delhi.

To the dismay of India, China’s BRI is expected to run through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the disputed Kashmir region. India and the United States oppose the BRI.

In February, the U.S. military warned that China might use the BRI to “support and mask” its military objectives as it continues to try to “displace” its rival the United States and expand its influence in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that China and Russia are vying for influence in Central Asia as the United States seeks to exit Afghanistan.

Taliban terrorists already control or contest almost half of Afghanistan, more than during any other time since the U.S. military ousted the group’s regime in late 2001, soon after invading the country.

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