Russia, China and other non-Western powers are making diplomatic overtures to Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government as the U.S. continues to stonewall the hardline Islamist group a year after it forcefully seized control of the country.
In the lead-up to the one-year anniversary of the Taliban retaking Afghanistan, Russia and China have publicly displayed their willingness to work Kabul on its myriad of challenges. Meanwhile, the U.S. has remained committed to its strategy of isolating the Taliban.
President Joe Biden in August 2021 completed a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as part of a deal negotiated by former President Donald Trump. The forces had been stationed in the country for nearly two decades to prevent a resurgence of the Taliban, who had been toppled by a U.S.-led coalition following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The U.S. has refused to recognize the Taliban government since, amid reports of human rights violations, particularly concerning the freedom and mobility of women. The Biden administration has also refused to unfreeze $3.5 billion of frozen Afghan funds held in the U.S., enraging the Taliban.
While no country has formally recognized the Taliban’s rule, countries including Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan have kept their embassies open in Kabul.
In April, Russia accepted their ambassadors, according to state-run RIA Novosti.
Russia’s U.S. embassy issued a statement last week to its Telegram channel calling on the Biden administration to release the funds it said were needed to address Afghanistan’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.
“The population of Afghanistan is experiencing an unprecedented social and economic crisis,” the statement said. “Washington’s actions are exacerbating the suffering of innocent Afghans and provoking the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the Asian country.”
Days later, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported that Nooruddin Azizi, Afghanistan’s interim commerce minister, would travel to Moscow for meetings with Russian government officials and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Beijing has pressed the Taliban to break with Islamist separatist groups that have operating in China’s northwest border with Afghanistan, while also seeking better cooperation between the two countries.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin blasted U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during a press briefing Monday.
“A country’s path to democracy can only be explored by that country’s own population independently in light of their national conditions,” he said. “The path to democracy varies from country to country, and will not work if it is imposed from the outside. Forcing the U.S.-style democracy on a country has invariably led to dysfunction and failure of its implementation.”
Yue Xiaoyong, a special Chinese envoy for Afghan affairs, last week tweeted glowingly about a meeting with Taliban official Abdul Salam Hanafi, saying they were working on trade that would involve China importing more Afghan pine nuts, saffron, figs and apricots.
Abdul Qahar Balkhi, Taliban foreign ministry spokesman, also described the meeting as productive in a tweet, with Afghanistan’s foreign minister thanking China for assistance with a recent earthquake.
The U.S. has continued to maintain a cold shoulder toward the Taliban, abruptly canceling a meeting this spring, according to Reuters. Relations between the two took another blow when Biden announced last month he had ordered a strike killing Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, despite promises by the Taliban that they wouldn’t harbor extremists.
Newsweek has reached out to the State Department for comment.
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