- Sputnik International, 1920, 07.09.2021
Afghanistan
The Taliban (under UN sanctions for terrorist activities) stormed to power in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, as US-led forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of occupation.

Why Will It Be 'Difficult' for the Taliban to 'Disown' ETIM Despite its Assurances to China?

© AFP 2022 / AAMIR QURESHIMembers of the Taliban Fateh, a "special forces" unit, stand guard outside the US embassy in Afghanistan displaying a Taliban flag in the outer concrete wall in Kabul on September 8, 2021.
Members of the Taliban Fateh, a special forces unit, stand guard outside the US embassy in Afghanistan displaying a Taliban flag in the outer concrete wall in Kabul on September 8, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.09.2021
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Republican lawmakers in the US Congress have said that the Biden administration's "disastrous" troop pullout from Afghanistan presents China with an opportunity to further its geopolitical ambitions. Leading dailies such as the UK's Daily Telegraph and USA Today have also labelled China as the ultimate "winner" amid the US troop withdrawal process.
India’s leading Chinese studies experts reckon that it is “too early” for the international community to declare China a “clear winner” following to the US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, stating it would be "difficult" for the Taliban* to “disown” the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the terrorist group calling for a separate Uyghur homeland.

“Right now, the ETIM is testing the differences between the Taliban and Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan). If the Taliban disowns them on China’s request, they may turn to ISIS-K for support,” says Shrikant Kondapalli, a professor at Centre for East Asian Studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The observations were made during a panel discussion on the “geostrategic implications” of US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan on 10 September. The virtual event was organised by a New Delhi-based foreign policy think tank, the Eurasian Foundation.
The East Asian expert also points out that ETIM’s deputy commander Hajji Furqan had yet to be handed over to China despite the Taliban calling Beijing its “friend” on several occasions.
During his meeting with Taliban’s co-founder and former political office chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin in July this year, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said that the ETIM “poses a direct threat to China's national security and territorial integrity”.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan's Taliban, in Tianjin, China July 28, 2021. Picture taken July 28, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.08.2021
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A United Nations Security Council (UNSC) report dated 1 June claims that Furqan “leads as many as 1,000 foreign fighters”, including nearly 400 operatives of the ETIM in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province. The report alleges that Furqan is also deputy commander of Al-Qaeda tasked with “recruitment of foreign fighters”.
The report states that the ETIM has been “facilitating” the movement of fighters from Afghanistan and even Syria in a bid to realise its stated goal of carving out a separate Uyghur state.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has rejected a widely-accepted assertion that Osama Bin Laden was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid telling NBC News last month that there was “no proof” of his involvement. Otherwise, the Taliban maintains that it won't allow Afghan soil to be used by any foreign terrorist group.
Taliban fighters poses for a photograph while raising their flag Taliban fighters raise their flag at the Ghazni provincial governor's house, in Ghazni, southeastern, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.08.2021
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Kondapalli claims that the reorganisation of the leadership of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Western Theatre Command, announced this week was reflective of Beijing’s concerns along its western borders. China's state media has reported that President Xi Jinping has appointed Wang Haijiang as the new general of the Western Theatre Command, the third leadership change in a year.

“It is not only the India challenge (the ongoing Ladakh border dispute with India), but also the potential threats from the Badakhshan province which may well have been a factor here,” claims the foreign affairs expert.

Professor Kondapalli also feels that there are a host of other potential challenges too which could create problems with China-Taliban cooperation. “China’s dependence on Pakistan to manage its ties with the Taliban could prove problematic in coming days, as the international community begins to scrutinise Islamabad’s reported role in interfering in Afghanistan’s internal process by helping the Taliban,” the Indian expert feels.
Taliban forces walk in front of Afghan demonstrators as they shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan protest, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 7, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.09.2021
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He goes on to refer to reports of Pakistani forces using Chinese-made CH-4 drones to bomb targets in the Panjshir province this month. The mountainous province is yet to be captured by the Taliban, which otherwise controls nearly every other part of Afghanistan.
“Questions are already being raised by regional actors about Pakistan’s military help to the Taliban. The use of Chinese arms in these operations would complicate matters for Beijing,” Kondapalli says, as he refers to Tehran’s objections against Pakistan-Taliban cooperation.
Lastly, Kondapalli argues that “too strong a government” in Kabul isn’t necessarily good news for Pakistan.
“One must not forget that the question of the Durand Line (the Pakistan-Afghanistan border) is still unsettled. The Taliban, backed by its Pashtun power base, could seek to reunite the Pashtun community in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Such differences risk affecting the overall equilibrium among Islamabad, Beijing and a Taliban-controlled Kabul,” the academic says.

‘Economic Instability’ in Afghanistan a Concern, Says Expert

Professor Sanjay Pandey, the former director of the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies (CRCAS) at JNU, says the “economic instability” in Afghanistan due to the freezing of nearly $9 billion of Kabul’s funds in foreign accounts last month may force it turn to arms and drugs trafficking into neighbouring nations.
“A thing of particular concern to China and other central Asian states bordering Afghanistan is the smuggling of small arms. These arms could be used to incite unrest in the neighbouring nations by certain disaffected groups and individuals,” he reckons.
The Chinese foreign ministry this week announced a $31 million in emergency aid to Afghanistan, its first since the Taliban captured power last month.
“China will try to step in to help the struggling Afghan economy to keep the Taliban from adopting illegal means to raise funds,” Pandey says.
Professor Swaran Singh, a professor at Centre for International Politics, Organisation & Disarmament, JNU, points out that it was too early to buy into the Taliban’s assurances of not supporting terrorism in Xinjiang.
“But if the Taliban cooperates with China in the realm of counter-terrorism, Beijing could be the greatest beneficiary out of the US troop pullout. None of the possibilities are being ruled out as yet,” he says.
Singh points out that extending the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a Beijing-baked multi-trillion dollar venture, remained another primary objective of China.
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division patrol Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 17, 2021. Picture taken August 17, 2021.  U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Taylor Crul/Handout via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY./File Photo/File Photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.08.2021
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“With a friendly Taliban-led regime in Kabul and the US troops gone, Beijing is sensing a real opportunity to realise its vision as well as support Afghanistan’s economic re-construction,” suggests Singh.
*The Taliban and Daesh are terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other countries.
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