Taliban Reassure Russia and China, Hold Talks with Afghan Government

In the shadow of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban have given both Russia and China assurances that they welcome their investments and will protect their interests in Afghanistan. Talks were held on July 8 in Moscow between Russia’s Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov and a Taliban delegation on future relations. The political spokesman of the latter, Mohammad Sohail Shaheen, told TASS after the meeting that they assured the Russian side “that we will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against Russia, the neighboring countries and other countries”.

He further specified that the Taliban have “very good relations” with Russia and will not target “embassies and consulates all over Afghanistan, particularly of Russia and other countries”.

The same Shaheen gave an interview to This Week in Asia in which he stressed that the Taliban would protect Chinese interests and welcome China’s involvement in the reconstruction of the country. Very importantly, he added that the Taliban would no longer allow Uighur separatist fighters to enter Afghanistan and would prevent Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group from operating within the country.

China already has many interests in Afghanistan, which counts the world’s largest unexploited reserves of copper, coal, iron, gas, cobalt, mercury, gold, lithium and thorium. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won a US$400 million bid in 2011 to drill three oil fields for 25 years, containing roughly 87 million barrels of oil. And Chinese firms have rights to mine copper at Mes Aynak in Logar province, some 40km southeast of Kabul.

As for other countries, the Taliban’s relations with Pakistan are very good, and they are also engaged in talks with the Iranians, who have been building a railway in the western part of the country bordering Iran. Tehran hosted a meeting between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives last week.

In a rather surprising statement, a U.S. State Department spokesman, Ned Price, commented to reporters in Washington that what “Iran is trying to do, or is in the process of trying to do by hosting this meeting, may well be constructive.”

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