June 22, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9409

Chinese Media Outlet Duowei: China Has No Intention Of Filling The Vacuum In Afghanistan Left By The U.S. Withdrawal – But Wants To Suppress Support For Uyghurs And Protect Belt And Road Projects

June 22, 2021
China | Special Dispatch No. 9409

On June 5, 2021, the Chinese media outlet Duowei wrote that "China has no intention of filling the vacuum after the withdrawal of U.S. troops" from Afghanistan. It added that Beijing hopes to play an important role in the political reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban, in order to prevent renewed violence from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is known to have bases in the country, and to protect its commercial Belt and Road programs in the region.

Below is the Duowei article:[1]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with Chinese President Xi Jinping (Source: Xinhua)

China And Pakistan 'Welcome The Taliban Back To The Political Mainstream In Afghanistan'

"Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded the 4th Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Dialogue with Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on June 3, 2021. The third trilateral dialogue was held on September 7, 2019, so after a break of a year and nine months, the foreign ministers of the three countries met again.

"Different from the previous consensus reached, such as 'starting domestic talks for all parties, including a direct negotiation between the Afghan government and the Taliban as soon as possible,' the three ministers in the latest dialogue stated clearly that they would 'create a necessary environment for the negotiation between the Afghan government and the Taliban,' thus 'looking forward to and welcome the Taliban back to the political mainstream in Afghanistan.'

"Furthermore, the statement of 'not supporting the establishment of any government by means of force' coincided with Wang Yi's proposition of 'promoting the return of Taliban to the political mainstream,' revealing clearly Beijing's stand that it was striving to avoid any future civil war and regime change in Afghanistan.

"To observers familiar with the political and military situations in Afghanistan, the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani and abandoned by the U.S. military has been in a precarious position. Although President Ghani has demonstrated to the West his 'enlightened' side by appointing female local officials after he was elected and won the approval of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden administrations, it is a fact that his government has been trapped inside Kabul. This is in a sharp contrast to the Taliban which controls almost half of the territory and establishes grassroots social order.

"Looking back at the process of withdrawal of troops accelerated since January of 2021, the power of the Ghani's faction has gradually shrunk with the withdrawal of the troops from the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. The Taliban forces, which control 40% of the rural areas, have engaged in strategic offensives. This means that regardless of whether the Kabul authorities would recognize it or not, the Taliban is a mainstream force that cannot be ignored even if it is designated as a 'terrorist organization' by Britain, Canada and other countries and maintains its existence by military force.

"After the NATO coalition forces began their formal withdrawal on April 30, the Taliban advance forces have followed closely and stepped in.

"To the outside world, a new round of Afghan civil war that has lasted for nearly 20 years will usher in a rather ironic cycle of violence.

In 2019, Beijing For The First Time Held The Afghan 'Dialogue Of Opposing Factions'

"In early May, the Taliban forces besieged the Narkh area of Wardak Province, 20 kilometers to east of the outskirts of Kabul, the Afghan capital. By May 12, the Taliban launched a general attack. After the local defense forces and police put up a fierce fighting, some of them surrendered while others made a 'strategic retreat.' As the area has a direct highway to Kabul and several important roads connecting the central and southern provinces of Afghanistan also pass through the place, this defeat fully demonstrates how weak the Kabul authorities are ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"On June 1, the Central Command responsible for the deployment of U.S. forces in Central Asia and the Middle East announced that the withdrawal of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan had made great headway in May and between 30 to 44% of the entire retrograde process had been completed. It is not good news for the Ghani authorities that still expect the U.S. and NATO forces to maintain order in Afghanistan.

"Although on June 3, the Afghan Ministry of National Defense announced that it had 'killed 223 Taliban militants' in a counterattack in the past nearly 24 hours, the Taliban still had the control over 17 of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan. At present, the capitals of five important provinces including Kandahar and Kunduz are still surrounded by the Taliban forces.

"One can expect that it is only a matter of time before the Kabul regime will be toppled under the tight siege of the Taliban forces as in 1996 once the U.S. and NATO forces complete their withdrawal in September as planned. The subsequent dogfights among the warlords are not something that the concerned parties including Beijing are willing to witness.

"As far as Afghan political and military situations are concerned, if the Afghan authorities follow Beijing's recommendations to 'confirm its confidence in peace talks' and to 'encourage and lead the Taliban to bury the hatchet,' it seems possible to reduce the chances that the Taliban will fight its way into Kabul after September 2021.

"In fact, Beijing predicted this scenario in as early as 2019. In October 2019, after the third trilateral dialogue by the foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Beijing for the first time held the Afghan 'Dialogue of Opposing Factions,' inviting the Taliban delegation and officials of the current Afghan government to participate in a two-day intra-Afghan conference to discuss peace talks.

"Beijing's goal has not changed since 2019, but the situation in Afghanistan unfolding before it has deteriorated. The West once speculated that China would undertake a partial responsibility for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and reduce its support for the Afghan authorities by reaching an agreement with the Taliban. But judging from the situation of the latest trilateral meeting, the outside world seems to be able to confirm that China has no intention of filling the vacuum after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. It just hopes to play an important role in the political reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban regime in the future in order to avoid chaos in the interior of Afghanistan that once saw the rise of the 'East Turkistan' militant group and the subsequent threat to the 'Belt and Road' projects.

"While the Kabul authorities led by President Ghani still place their hope on Western help and the Taliban's negotiating team maintains close contact with the United States, the accelerated withdrawal of NATO and the U.S. troops in May of 2021 has demonstrated their irresponsible abandonment of Afghanistan. Faced with the deteriorating situation of the war, the time has come for Beijing to continue its efforts on the Afghanistan issue and come up with a relatively comprehensive solution in the next few months."

[1], June 5, 2021. It is worth noting that when it was founded in New York in 1999 by Pin Ho, Duowei, which is a news opinion website, recruited several dissidents to write for it; it was considered a "dissident outlet." In 2009, due to poor management, Duowei was sold to CCP-backed businessman Yu Pun-hoi, and its headquarters were moved to Beijing. Since then, it has become one of the semi-official news outlets that the Chinese government uses to test public opinion in the Chinese-speaking diaspora. Duowei News cannot be accessed from within China.

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