Beijing: The Taliban have informed China that the ETIM militants from the volatile Xinjiang province who reportedly converged in Afghanistan have left the war-torn country after it told them to leave.
Since its seizing power in Kabul, the Taliban have been facing intense pressure from Beijing, which has been vocal in expressing its concern over the Uygur militants of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) fighting for the independence of Xinjiang, regrouping in Afghanistan under the rule of the Afghan militant group as the volatile province shares a narrow border with the war-ravaged country.
Many of the ETIM members have left Afghanistan because the Taliban have categorically told them that there is no place for anyone to use Afghanistan against other countries, including its neighbouring nations, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told China’s state-run Global Times.
China alleges that the ETIM, stated to be an affiliate of al Qaida was responsible for large scale violence in Xinjiang, the home of over 10 million Uygur Muslims.
The US and EU accuse China of committing human rights violations against Uygurs by keeping thousands of them in detention camps. The previous Trump administration had lifted the ban on ETIM, which China terms as America’s double standards in fighting terrorism.
Shaheen said after the message from Taliban to the ETIM members, he did not see that “anyone, in any place” will be able to stay in Afghanistan, especially those “who are intending to carry out sabotage activities in other countries or have their foreign agenda.”
He said in future, the counter-terrorism work will be conducted by the country’s ministry of defence, ministry of interior and intelligence department.
“They will be working together to ensure that no one uses the soil of Afghanistan against other countries,” Shaheen was quoted as saying in the report on Thursday.
Shaheen said they have “capabilities, experience and the necessary weapons” to deal with security problems, adding that other countries can express their concerns to them through diplomatic meetings.
He said cutting off links with terrorism is in the interest of Afghanistan as they want to focus on the development of the country to provide a comfortable life for their people.
Shaheen, however, did not answer directly whether the Taliban will extradite ETIM members to China if Beijing requests it in the future, the report said.
Beijing is apprehensive that many of the ETIM members have converged in Afghanistan in the run up to the Taliban offensive resulting in its seizure of power in the country.
In July, China hosted a Taliban delegation headed by its senior leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, now named as deputy leader in Afghanistan’s new caretaker government, during which the Afghan militant group made a commitment not to host the ETIM militants.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Friday said Beijing has taken note of the Taliban spokesman’s interview.
The ETIM is an UNSC-designated terrorist organisation, which poses a direct threat to China’s security and its people. It harms regional stability and security and is also a “tumour festering” in Afghanistan. Beijing has expressed serious concerns over the ETIM to the Afghan Taliban on multiple occasions. The Afghan Taliban attaches importance to this and has made solemn pledges, he said.
Zhao said China hopes that the Taliban “honour their words and make a clean break with the ETIM and other terrorist groups and take effective measures in its territory to resolutely crackdown on those terrorist organisations”.
In the meantime, step up cooperation and coordination with the neighbouring countries to forestall spillover effects and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed, harbour source of terrorist forces, he said.
In his interview, Shaheen also sought to dispel criticism that the interim government announced by the Taliban was not inclusive, saying that it is temporary and a new government will be formed after reaching an agreement with other politicians.
He said Taliban are in talks with other Afghan politicians and if an agreement is reached, people outside the current cabinet will have the chance to get high-ranking jobs in the new government.
We believe in the inclusiveness of the government, Shaheen said, adding that the formal government may be set up this month or next month.
After relevant issues are settled, the Taliban hopes to invite high-level delegations from other countries, including China to visit Afghanistan, he said.
The Taliban spokesperson reiterated the group’s willingness to participate in China’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
At the moment, Shaheen hopes China will come forward and help the people of Afghanistan by providing humanitarian assistance.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday announced USD 31 million aid to Afghanistan, The aid include food, medicines and other winter supplies.