Dari-Language Investigative Report By Afghan Media Reveals Taliban's Continued Protection Of Uyghur Jihadis: 'The Uyghur Fighters Live Secretly Under The Rule Of The Taliban, And This Is Probably Because The Taliban Do Not Want Their Relations With China To Be Strained Over The Uyghurs'

May 7, 2024

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Recently, the Afghan daily Etilaat Roz published an investigative report revealing that the Afghan Taliban government has continued to shelter and support Uyghur jihadi fighters who are mostly based in Badakhshan province.

The Dari-language report, titled "The Taliban Are Seeking To Expand Land Connections With China," says that the Taliban are establishing a direct land route through Badakhshan province to facilitate trade with China. However, this plan has raised concerns for China due to potential security threats posed by Uyghur fighters in the region.

"During the previous government of Afghanistan, Qari Furqan was in charge of the Uyghur fighters in Badakhshan, but the government at that time could not arrest him. People's sources in Badakhshan told Etilaat Roz that Qari Furqan is still present in this province with the support of the Badakhshani Taliban," the report adds.

Following are translated excerpts from the article:

"Hizb-e-Islami Turkestan [Turkestan Islamic Party] Is An Islamic Extremist Organization Founded By The Uyghurs In Western China"; "Al-Qaeda Cooperates With Non-Afghan Terrorist Groups Such As The Islamic Movement Of Uzbekistan, Hizb-e-Islami Turkestan And Jamaat Ansarullah, To Strengthen Its Forces"

"The Taliban government wants to have a direct land route to connect to China so that Chinese goods can enter Afghanistan, and the ground for more Chinese presence and investment in Afghanistan will be provided. But this Taliban plan leads to the possibility of expanding the security threat of Uyghur fighters to China through Badakhshan province in the northeast of Afghanistan.

"Hizb-e-Islami Turkestan [Turkestan Islamic Party] is an Islamic extremist organization founded by the Uyghurs in western China. This group is recognized as a terrorist group by the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Russia, and Pakistan. A few years ago, photos were published in which Uyghur fighters were seen with M-4 and M-16 rifles and Ranger and Humvee [vehicles] of the [former] Afghan government forces.

"In the month of Asad [i.e., August 2023], a report of the United Nations Security Council stated that Al-Qaeda cooperates with non-Afghan terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb-e-Islami Turkestan, and Jamaat Ansarullah to strengthen its forces.

"About two months ago, Qari Mohammad Ayub, the Taliban governor in Badakhshan, said that the construction of a road that connects Afghanistan with China is on the threshold of exploitation. He added that the construction of this road started about five months ago and the work is going on to connect Wakhan district of Badakhshan to China. But until now there has been no news about the operation of this road.

"During the previous government of Afghanistan, the road from Fayzabad to Ishkashim district was paved. But with the spread of the war and the fall of Badakhshan to the Taliban, work has stopped. This road was supposed to go to Zebak district and from there to Wakhan and Chinese border.

"In the month of Sumbla [i.e., September 2023]... the Taliban started the construction of a 50-kilometer road from the small Pamir in Wakhan district to the Chinese border. This road is called Silk Road, and it is five meters wide. The Taliban government has announced that the cost of building this road is more than 369 million Afghanis.

"Wakhan district of Badakhshan was selected as the second national park of Afghanistan in 1393 [i.e., 2014]. The Wakhan Corridor is a narrow valley in the high mountains in the east of Badakhshan province and it is considered one of the favorite areas of foreign tourists in Afghanistan. Wakhan is a mountainous region in Badakhshan, and it was not possible to drive cars there before."

"The Taliban Government Is Silent About The Presence Of Uyghurs In Badakhshan; However, People's Sources Told Etilaat Roz That The Number Of Uyghur Fighters In Badakhshan Reaches More Than 100 People And Some Of Them Are Settled"

"Uyghurs under the umbrella of Qari Furqan

"Hizb-e-Islami Turkestan is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. After the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked a Pakistani army school in Peshawar, which killed 150 people, including 131 students, the Pakistani army launched a massive operation in Waziristan. As a result of this operation, a number of TTP fighters and Uyghurs traveled to Afghanistan with their family members.

"During the previous government of Afghanistan, Qari Furqan was in charge of the Uyghur fighters in Badakhshan, but the government at that time could not arrest him. People's sources in Badakhshan told Etilaat Roz that Qari Furqan is still present in this province with the support of the Badakhshani Taliban.

"The findings of Etilaat Roz from Badakhshan show that Uyghur fighters are stationed in the Khostak Valley area in Jurm district and also in Wurduj district, where they have safe camps.

"Qari Fasihuddin, the Chief of the General Staff of the Taliban, Mawlawi Amanuddin, the commander of the 217 Omari Army Corps, and Qari Wasil, the deputy of Badakhshan's Umar Thalath group, the Tajik commanders of the Badakhshani Taliban, are accused of cooperating and supporting the Uyghur fighters. Qari Wasil Nazari Zadah is one of the prominent figures of the Taliban in Badakhshan and has worked as the governor of Jurm district, the police commander of Baharak district, the police commander of Badakhshan, and is currently the deputy of the Umar Thalath group in Badakhshan.

"The Taliban government is silent about the presence of Uyghurs in Badakhshan. However, people's sources told Etilaat Roz that the number of Uyghur fighters in Badakhshan reaches more than 100 people and some of them are settled in this province with their families. These sources said that the transportation route of Uyghurs in Badakhshan is through Shah Salim Kotal in Zebak district, which connects Badakhshan to Chitral region of Pakistan and Nuristan province.

"It is said that most of the Uyghur fighters are tall with long hair and small eyes. The source told Etilaat Roz: 'One of the soldiers of the border forces during the Republic, who was captured by Uyghur fighters, narrated that Uyghur people were taller and they would lift prisoners of war by their ears and throw them to the ground.'

"The Uyghur fighters live secretly under the rule of the Taliban, and this is probably because the Taliban do not want their relations with China to be strained over the Uyghurs. Sources said that the Uyghurs, in addition to having advanced fighting skills, are capable of repairing light weapons and they have cooperated with the Taliban in this field."

"If The Taliban Take A Repressive Action Against The Uyghur Fighters With The Hint Of The Chinese Government, Such Actions Against The Uyghurs Will Increase The Security Threat Against The Taliban Government In Afghanistan And The Possibility Of The Uyghurs Uniting With Other Terrorist Groups [ISKP]"

"Release from Prison

"The narrative of Badakhshan residents about Uyghur fighters is that they are professional and experienced in using weapons. A resident of Badakhshan told Etilaat Roz, 'Whenever the car of the Uyghur fighters broke down on the road, they were able to repair it. They would get out of the car and observe the area. The Uyghurs were also skilled at making mines.'

"During the Republican system supported by America and the West, the government had detained a number of Uyghur fighters, but when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, they opened the gates of all prisons, and the prisoners were released. After being released from prison, the Uyghurs returned to Badakhshan and their military power increased. Uyghurs have no place to live except Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan; and they mostly live in these areas.

"The Uyghur fighters in Badakhshan have cooperated with the Tajik Badakhshani Taliban for years and therefore have established close relations with each other. The Chinese government is worried about the threat of the Uyghurs behind its border with Afghanistan and has shared this concern with the Taliban.

"On the other hand, if the Taliban take repressive action against the Uyghur fighters at the hint of the Chinese government, such actions against the Uyghurs will increase the security threat against the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the possibility of the Uyghurs uniting with other terrorist groups, including the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State (ISKP) which is the enemy of the Taliban. 

"The Ministry of Defense of the previous government of Afghanistan had told Etilaat Roz that the Taliban had prepared the ground for the presence of 'foreign terrorists,' including the Uyghurs. The local authorities of Badakhshan in the previous government said that the Uyghurs are a threat to Badakhshan as 'foreign terrorists' and that these fighters are active in the framework of the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda network."

"China Is Eyeing Afghanistan's Mines And Underground Resources, And The Taliban, Who Are Under U.S. And Western Sanctions, Want To Strengthen Their Relations With Neighboring Countries And The Region"

"The Taliban and Relations with China"

"With the collapse of the Afghan government [in August 2021], Beijing tried to increase its level of interaction and contact with the Taliban and until now has hosted high-ranking delegations of the Taliban at the level of ministers.

"At the end of Mizan [i.e., October 2023]..., Nooruddin Azizi, the Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Taliban, participated in the Third Forum of International Cooperation of the Belt and Road. The Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi participated in the third meeting of the 'Trans-Himalaya' Forum in Tibet and met with the Foreign Minister of that country, Wang Yi.

Afghanistan will be connected to China through the construction of this road. Photo: Ministry of Public Works of the previous government.

"China handed over the Afghan embassy to the Taliban and in a 'surprising' move, the credentials of Asadullah Bilal Karimi, the Taliban government's ambassador in Beijing, were accepted by Chinese President Xi Jinping in an official meeting. The United States of America asked China to clarify the relationship with the Taliban and whether it recognizes the Taliban or not.

"During the Taliban era, China is eyeing Afghanistan's mines and underground resources, and the Taliban, who are under U.S. and Western sanctions, want to strengthen their relations with neighboring countries and the region. The Taliban's request to Beijing is to invest more in Afghanistan's mining sector to increase the group's income. Currently, Amu Darya oil is extracted by a Chinese company, and the Chinese have shown interest in extracting other Afghanistan mines, including lithium.

"Although the Taliban try to contain or keep away the security threats from China's economic projects in Afghanistan, but the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State (ISKP) and the Uyghur fighters are the most serious threat to Chinese interests in Afghanistan."

Source: Etilaatroz.com (Afghanistan), March 17, 2024.

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