It was widely speculated that China and Russia would move in to immediately fill the void after the United States announced to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan. In a sign of warming ties, a delegation of the Afghan Taliban has met with Chinese officials in the city of Tianjin.
The Taliban said they expected China to play its role in the reconciliation process and the subsequent reconstruction in the war-ravaged countries. In response, the Chinese want the Taliban to disassociate itself from separatist groups such as ETIM, considered a threat to China’s national security.
The Taliban have stepped up diplomatic efforts to seek global recognition as they hope to eventually come to power. The invitation by the Chinese authorities will certainly boost their legitimacy. Unlike the Americans, the Chinese will not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal issues or the human rights situation and have assured the restoration of peace.
China has viewed the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as a boon and close ties with the Taliban, who are likely the future in Kabul, would help expand its Belt and Road Initiative in Afghanistan. There is a sharp contrast in American and Chinese policy, while the Taliban want international support including lifting sanctions and travel on its leaders. Taliban delegations have also visited Iran and Russia in recent weeks. It needs to be seen if other countries such as European Union would agree to work with the Taliban or it would become a pariah state.
It is also unclear whether there will be a political settlement in Afghanistan before foreign troops leave. The Taliban’s leader had sent a message they should solve their problems themselves rather than relying on outsiders. It is unlikely that the Taliban will embrace a political solution anytime soon and are gearing to take the nation by force. The fighters already control half the country’s district centres and civilian causalities are mounting.
The peace talks for a political settlement have largely stalled with the Taliban showing little interest in negotiating while they are gaining on the battlefield. Neighbouring countries such as Pakistan are wary of the situation but said they have done their bit and now it’s up to Afghans to decide how they want to govern their country.