Amid the Islamist militant group's unleashing chaos and a mounting civilian death toll on the Afghan landscape, and now in possession of at least half of the country's districts, Talban leaders have traveled to China where "warming ties" were on display Wednesday in a meeting with top Beijing officials.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi hosted the visit of a Taliban delegation of nine Taliban leaders, including the group's co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Yi told reporters that China expects to "play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan."
Clearly the Taliban are now seeking international "legitimacy" as they are poised to eventually retake the entire country via military force, particularly the Afghan capital of Kabul, which US intelligence admitted recently could be just six months away.
Al Jazeera aptly commented on the question of legitimacy in the following:
Wednesday’s meeting in the Chinese city of Tianjin, which Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem said was at the invitation from Chinese authorities, was widely seen as a gift from Beijing towards that legitimacy.
The Taliban were greeted with smiles and nods to the camera in Tianjin, the major port city in northeast China where a US delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Chinese counterparts on Sunday into Monday for what was by all accounts a much icier reception.
US vs Taliban in China pic.twitter.com/s0rS1wKInN— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) July 28, 2021
Sharing the stage with America's longtime #1 terrorist enemy in Central Asia, a Chinese foreign ministry press statement said further:
"China has throughout adhered to non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs … Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people," which was offered in stark contrast to the "failure of US policy towards Afghanistan."
Some pundits in the West picked up on the brazen hypocrisy of Chinese officials being chummy with hardline Islamists given the long-running crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in China...
This is ultimately quite a class on international relations. China has more than a million Uyghur Muslims in 're-education' camps in Xinjiang but is hosting and chilling with the Taliban freely in Tianjin... https://t.co/UCS4R6VScX— Kabir Taneja (@KabirTaneja) July 28, 2021
Interestingly, also on Wednesday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared to hint that Washington is preparing for the worst. He said Afghanistan will certainly be seen as a "pariah state" should the Taliban conquer Afghanistan and become the main government.
He was responding specifically to the Taliban going to China: "The Taliban says that it seeks international recognition, that it wants international support for Afghanistan. Presumably, it wants its leaders to be able to travel freely in the world, sanctions lifted, etc," he said to reporters.