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Chinese, Taliban officials meet in Tianjin as US leaves Afghanistan

In a meeting with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who heads the group’s political committee, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the Taliban as an important military and political force in Afghanistan, and that he expected the Taliban to play an important role in the country’s “peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process”, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

Following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly expanded their presence and now control large swathes of the country. The speed at which Afghan security forces have lost control to the Taliban has shocked many and raised fears that the capital Kabul is the next to fall. All foreign forces are expected to leave Afghanistan by August 31.
Wednesday’s meeting, which was also attended by the heads of the Taliban’s religious and advertising committees, is the latest move by the Chinese government to strengthen relations with the Islamist group.

Beijing has invested heavily in Central Asia in recent years through its Belt and Road infrastructure and trade program, and China’s Foreign Ministry has already discussed the possibility of expanding the China Economic Corridor. -Pakistan (CPEC) in Afghanistan.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Wang called Afghanistan China’s biggest neighbor and stressed that the country’s fate should be “in the hands of the Afghan people.”

Wang said the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan under US President Joe Biden marked “the failure of US policy towards Afghanistan,” as well as an opportunity for the country to stabilize and to develop oneself.

“(China) respects the sovereign independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, (and) always insists on non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan,” Wang said.

For its part, the Islamist group told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post in early July that it considered China a “welcome friend”.

Wang also mentioned the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which it called an “international terrorist organization”, and said the Taliban should “completely cut all ties” with the group to promote regional stability.

The Chinese government has repeatedly accused the ETIM of planning and carrying out terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, accusations it has used to justify its widespread crackdown in the western region.

Speaking in India on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington and New Delhi had “a strong interest in a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan” and called the Taliban’s military advances “deeply disturbing.”

Blinken added that the United States and its partners will continue to work together to “maintain the gains of the Afghan people and support regional stability after the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country.”

CNN’s Beijing office contributed to this article.

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