- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Chinese officials marked the formation of the Taliban’s interim government by unveiling $31 million worth of aid — more than three times the sum the FBI is offering for information leading to the arrest of the terrorist who now runs Afghanistan’s internal security.
“The Chinese side attaches great importance to the Afghan Taliban’s announcement of an interim government,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Wednesday. “This is a necessary step in restoring domestic order and moving towards post-war reconstruction.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken struck a note of understated criticism, observing that some of the power players “have very challenging track records” — including the newly appointed interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is wanted by the FBI, and four Guantanamo Bay alumni. Their differing tones notwithstanding, both China and U.S. officials are confronted with the unwelcome prospect of a refugee crisis out of Afghanistan, although they disagree on how to avert it.
“It certainly does not meet the test of inclusivity, and it includes people who have very challenging track records,” Blinken said during a press briefing at Ramstein Air Base, where he met with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “Our engagement with the Taliban and with a government, interim or long term, will be for purposes of advancing the national interest, advancing our interests, the interests of our partners.”
Haqqani’s new role as interior minister could allow him to represent an ascent to the height of power in Afghanistan, nine years after the United States designated the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization and a decade after an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The organization, long regarded in Washington as a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, earned a reputation among U.S. intelligence circles as the “most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group” in Afghanistan.
“The Haqqani network is frankly, in my opinion, our biggest enemy in that nexus of jihadi groups,” the Heritage Foundation’s Jeff Smith told the Washington Examiner. “They’re the worst actors in the whole group ... He could end up being the most powerful figure in the country, for all I know, if he's got the ISI’s backing and he's controlling the internal security forces.”
State Department officials attempted to distinguish the Haqqani Network and the Taliban when the evacuation from Kabul airport pressed U.S. troops and American diplomats into proximity to the Taliban.
"The Haqqani network is a designated terrorist organization,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at the time. “We are not coordinating with the Haqqani Network.”
FBI officials have offered a $10 million reward for information leading to Haqqani’s arrest. However, State Department officials can't spurn contact with the Taliban, as the need to arrange the departure of Americans and at-risk Afghan nationals who were left behind when the Kabul evacuation ended.
“We have and we will find ways to engage the Taliban, to engage an interim government, a future government, to do just that and to do it in ways that are fully consistent with our laws,” Blinken said.
U.S. and European officials have suggested development aid to the Taliban-run government will be contingent upon how the Taliban govern, but militants are buoyed by China’s apparent calculation the Taliban represent the best chance to maintain stability within 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,” a Taliban spokesman said last week. “In addition, China is our pass to markets all over the world.”
China’s aid offering thus far is comprised of “grains, winter supplies, vaccines, and medicines to Afghanistan according to the needs of the Afghan people,” according to state media. Blinken, who endorses the provision of “lifesaving assistance in a way that’s consistent with our sanctions obligations," urged foreign powers to consider where other forms of “assistance can successfully incentivize positive actions by the government, and predicted that a repressive Taliban would fail to maintain order in the country."
“Inclusivity is not a favor that the Taliban would be doing to any of us,” he said earlier Wednesday during a virtual ministerial on Afghanistan. “It is, in our judgment, a necessity if [Afghanistan] is going to be stable and if it can move forward in a sustainable way because, in its absence, it only increases the likelihood that the divisions will turn back into civil war at some point.”
Washington Examiner Videos
Original Author: Joel Gehrke