The Taliban might have a new friend (China)

Briefly: The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan met in Islamabad over the weekend and agreed to consider Afghanistan as a hub for China’s massive infrastructure spending in the region.

Kabul needs any investment it can get. Since the Taliban took over in 2021:

  • 📉 GDP has halved to $10B (that’s less than McKinsey’s revenue), and
  • 😓 two thirds of Afghanistan’s 40 million folks can’t afford food (up from half).

With the Taliban now back in charge, the West continues to pick up checks for humanitarian agencies, but has mostly refused to work with the government.

Why? The Taliban has banned women from universities, NGO jobs and even parks. And it’s conducted targeted killings of ethnic Hazaras and former soldiers.

So in search of new friends, the Taliban is turning to China. And unlike the West, China doesn’t usually draw a link between aid and human rights.

Intrigue’s take: Of course, that doesn’t mean China’s help comes strings-free. China wants the Taliban to:

  • stop militant groups from using Afghanistan to mount attacks back home (sound familiar?), and
  • bring the country’s security situation under control so Chinese firms can develop Afghanistan’s massive mineral deposits.

So far, US pressure, UN condemnation, and even Russian finger-wagging have done little to stabilise Taliban-led Afghanistan. Maybe Chinese railroads will do the trick…?

Also worth noting:

  • In December, Islamic State militants bombed a hotel in Kabul that frequently hosts Chinese diplomats and business leaders.
  • China and Afghanistan share a 92-kilometre-long (57 mi) border.
  • The US was the largest donor to Afghanistan’s U.N. appeal last year, giving nearly $1.2B. The US froze $7B in Afghan assets in 2021, assigning half for the families of the September 2001 terrorist attacks and moving the rest to a Swiss-based fund it says will benefit Afghans.
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