A Taliban delegation visited China on Wednesday, and Beijing said the group will play an “important” role in the Afghan peace process and the reconstruction of the country.
“The Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country, and will play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction there,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
The visit comes as the Taliban is making significant territorial gains against the Afghan government, which the US has responded to by stepping up airstrikes. Regional countries are preparing for the likely possibility that the Taliban will either take over Afghanistan or at least be the dominant political force in a future power-sharing government.
One request China has of the Taliban is to sever ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uyghur Muslim group that Beijing accuses of being behind terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.
“Fighting ETIM is the common responsibility of the international community and I hope the Afghanistan Taliban will cut ties with terror groups such as ETIM. The Afghanistan Taliban can contribute to an effective crackdown against those groups and play an active role in regional stability and development,” Wang said.
ETIM was designated as a terrorist organization by the US up until last year when it was removed from the terror list by the Trump administration. The Trump administration said there was no “credible evidence” that the group still existed, but in 2018, the US carried out airstrikes in Afghanistan that a US military official said targeted ETIM.
China has an interest in a stable Afghanistan and wants to invest in infrastructure projects and the country’s reconstruction. Western media portrays these plans as Beijing replacing the US in Afghanistan, but a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday sought to differentiate China’s approach from Washington’s.
“China has throughout adhered to non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs … Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people,” the spokesman said, according to Al Jazeera. He added that this approach is a stark contrast to the “failure of US policy towards Afghanistan.”