China supplies Taliban with modern weapons: report

WASHINGTON: China is supplying modern weapons to the Taliban following the recent attack by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) on a hotel in Kabul that housed mostly Chinese nationals, writes Zafar Iqbal Yousafzaiauthor of The Troubled Triangle: US-Pakistan Relations under the Taliban’s Shadow in The Jamestown Foundation.
The move comes as unstable and unstable Afghanistan threatens Chinese interests and could pose an obstacle to the success of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
In addition, Chinese sources expressed concern that the uncertainty and unrest could lead to Afghanistan becoming a hotbed for terrorists “targeting Chinese Xinjiang and its overseas interests, such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), where enhanced communication and coordination between China and Pakistan is required to address potential threats,” the Global Times reported.
On December 12, ISKP members attacked a local hotel in Kabul, where several Chinese nationals were staying. The attack injured five Chinese nationals and 18 other victims, while the three attackers were killed by security forces.
Chinese businessmen have been reported to run the hotel, which is frequently visited by Chinese diplomats and businessmen, Global Times reported.
In response, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Wang Wen Bin said, “China is deeply shocked by the attack, which is very egregious, and firmly opposes terrorism in all its forms.”
In response to these challenges, China has sought to provide the Taliban with sufficient support to combat all forms of terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan, Yousafzai said.
Several factors have recently prompted China to deepen its engagement and support for the Taliban. When Kabul fell to the Taliban, the world was stunned and concerned by the Taliban in power; however, some countries like Iran, Russia, China, and Pakistan were among those waiting for stability in Afghanistan and asking the international community to help the Taliban stabilize the country.
Moreover, China viewed the US presence in Afghanistan as a strategic threat to China. As a result, the US withdrawal and return to power of the Taliban, with whom Beijing has close ties, have generally been seen as beneficial geopolitical developments for China, the Jamestown Foundation reported.
China has strategic, political, economic and security interests in Afghanistan that it wants to secure. The existence of any central administration in power in Kabul that is comfortable with China is favorable to the latter.
The China-Taliban engagement is not new. The Taliban have visited China frequently for years. Even in the 1990s, Beijing engaged with the Taliban to curb militant infiltration in western China.
Afghanistan is strategically and economically important to Beijing as it connects China to the Persian Gulf and Iran. Similarly, Afghanistan is a potential route for the BRI with vast natural resources.
Therefore, China had pressured the Taliban to take a clear stance on militancy, i.e. the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). So far, the Taliban have stated unequivocally that they will not interfere in any country’s internal affairs, Yousafzai said.
China provides humanitarian aid and concessions to the Taliban government; however, several developments are still unrecorded.
One such behind-the-scenes development is China’s supply of Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to the Taliban, which have greatly enhanced the combat capabilities of his forces, the Jamestown Foundation reported.
The first drone was obtained through a Chinese front company and cost US$60,000, which engineers adapted to carry four mortar shells, New Lines magazine reported on September 15, 2021.
However, the drone unit still uses modified commercial drones for surveillance and operations. To improve its drone capabilities, the Taliban struck a deal with China to buy Blowfish attack drones.
The Blowfish enhances the Taliban’s combat capability in operations against its adversaries, particularly the ISKP. It will also put considerable pressure on other resistance movements, including the National Resistance Front in the Panjshir Valley, the Jamestown Foundation reported.
China has economic, political, security and strategic interests in Afghanistan and has maintained close contact with the Taliban over the past decade.
Moreover, Beijing does not want the Taliban to allow Afghan soil to serve as a base for operations targeting China.
However, China’s announced delivery of combat drones to the Taliban will have a significant impact on US-China relations and the Taliban’s combat ability to target ISKP and other adversaries, Yousafzai said. (ANI)

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