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Amid instability, China raises stakes in Afghanistan

AT News

KABUL – China’s interest in investing in Afghanistan under the Belt and Road Initiative has surged in recent months, but the nation faces formidable challenges due to terrorism and instability.

This is as China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a paper affirming its commitment to supporting Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development, signaling its intention to play a crucial role in the nation’s economic growth.

Chinese companies have recently demonstrated their eagerness to invest in Afghanistan. In a meeting with Taliban officials in Kabul last week, Fan China Afghan Mining Processing and Trading Co. announced an investment of $350 million across various sectors, including construction, health, and energy. The company, a joint venture between China’s Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Co. (CAPEIC) and Afghanistan’s Watan Group, aims to contribute to the country’s development.

Furthermore, the Taliban signed a contract with CAPEIC earlier this year to invest $150 million annually in oil extraction in the northern part of Afghanistan.

Apart from the energy sector, China also has a keen interest in mining operations in Afghanistan. In 2008, the then-Afghan government signed a contract with the Chinese company Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) to extract copper from Mes Aynak in Logar province. However, the work has not commenced yet. Last month, the Taliban’s mining and petroleum minister, Shahabuddin Delawar, called on MCC to begin practical work on the mine.

While the extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan was hailed as a diplomatic win for the Taliban, analysts caution that the implementation of the project still faces hurdles.

However, investing in Afghanistan also poses security concerns for China. A UN report released last month indicated that the Taliban maintains ties with terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which China considers a threat to its security. The US, however, removed ETIM from its terror list in 2020.

Hamidullah Farooqi, a former Afghan minister of transport and civil aviation, expressed skepticism regarding China and Pakistan’s confidence in the Taliban’s counterterrorism commitments. He emphasized that the Taliban need to take concrete actions to address security concerns and prevent terrorist groups from using Afghan soil.

As China increases its investment in Afghanistan, the nation faces the complex task of navigating security challenges and fostering stability in the region. The success of these endeavors will have far-reaching implications not only for Afghanistan but also for China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

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