Afghanistan: Taliban to rely on Chinese funds, spokesperson says

With the help of China, the Taliban will fight for an economic comeback in Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid tells Italian newspaper.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, centre, said the New Silk Road - a Chinese infrastructure initiative - was held in high regard by the Taliban [File: Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, centre, said the New Silk Road - a Chinese infrastructure initiative - was held in high regard by the Taliban [File: Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has told an Italian newspaper that the group will rely primarily on financing from China following the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and its takeover of the country.

In his interview published by La Repubblica on Thursday, Mujahid said the Taliban will fight for an economic comeback with the help of China.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on August 15 as the country’s Western-backed government melted away, bringing an end to 20 years of war amid fears of an economic collapse and widespread hunger.

Following the chaotic departure of foreign troops from Kabul airport in recent weeks, Western states have severely restricted their aid payments to Afghanistan.

“China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country,” the Taliban spokesperson was quoted as saying in the interview.

He said the New Silk Road – an infrastructure initiative with which China wants to increase its global influence by opening up trade routes – was held in high regard by the Taliban.

There are “rich copper mines in the country, which, thanks to the Chinese, can be put back into operation and modernised. In addition, China is our pass to markets all over the world.”

Mujahid also confirmed that women would be allowed to continue studying at universities in future. He said women would be able to work as nurses, in the police or as assistants in ministries, but ruled out that there would be female ministers.

Andrew Small, senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States Asia programme, said China’s engagement in Afghanistan would be dependent on political stability.

“China doesn’t do large scale aid; it will provide aid in modest terms, it will provide humanitarian assistance and it’s not going to bail out a new government,” he told Al Jazeera.

“It might do some smaller scale investments but those longer term investments will depend on there being enough stability in the country and enough security in the country for these to turn into something that’s economically viable,” he added.

“So there’s still some limitations to what Cina’s going to be willing to do economically, even if it continues to be happy and the Taliban are keen to be able to send these signals that China’s willing to swing in on scale.”

Afghanistan desperately needs money, and the Taliban is unlikely to get swift access to the roughly $10bn in assets here mostly held abroad by the Afghan central bank.

Earlier this week, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warned of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan and urged countries to provide emergency funding as severe drought and war have forced thousands of families to flee their homes.

Guterres expressed his “grave concern at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country”, adding that basic services threatened to collapse “completely”.

“Now more than ever, Afghan children, women and men need the support and solidarity of the international community,” he said in a statement on Tuesday as he pleaded for financial support from nations.

“I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need. I urge them to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding,” the UN secretary-general said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the current $1.3bn UN humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan is only 39 percent funded.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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