Exclusive: New Afghan govt eyes exchanging visits with China; ETIM has no place in Afghanistan: Taliban spokesperson
Many ETIM members had left Afghanistan; no place for them to 'use our land' against other countries
Published: Sep 09, 2021 11:50 PM
Suhail Shaheen Photo: GT

Suhail Shaheen Photo: GT

While the Taliban announced an interim government consisting of important Taliban figures in Afghanistan on Tuesday, which to many is not as inclusive as they once promised, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that they are in talks with other Afghan politicians and, if an agreement is reached, other people outside the current cabinet will have the chance to take high-ranking jobs in the new government.

Shaheen noted that the appointed officials are acting and the permanent ministers will be appointed soon after due consideration. "We believe in the inclusiveness of the government," he told the Global Times, 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. Shaheen told the Global Times that many East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) members have left Afghanistan because the Taliban has categorically told them that there is no place for anyone to use Afghanistan against other counties, including its neighboring countries.

Shaheen said that with this announcement 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."

Ongoing political negotiations  

In the exclusive interview with the Global Times, Shaheen dismissed the criticism of the Afghan interim government which is seen as not inclusive and does not represent the vast diversity of ethnic groups in the country. He said that this is an interim government and the appointment of ministers at this time is to fill the "vacuum" as it was necessary to provide essential services to Afghan people.

Many positions remain vacant but they will be filled after due consideration. Shaheen noted that any changes and adjustments regarding the government are possible before the formal government is set up.

According to the announced list of the new government, Prime Minister Mullah Hasan Akhund is still on a UN sanctions list and the interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the son of the founder of the Haqqani network which was classified as a terrorist group by the US. This could make it harder for the new government to get international recognition and resume normal exchanges, analysts pointed out.

Shaheen said that this is the case. But he added that they are a liberating force and other countries that once occupied Afghanistan do not want to delist their members.

"We are living in such a one-sided world," and "we hope some of our friends and those who love freedom will support us in our effort to build our country, to build peace, and to work for the prosperity of our people," he said.

According to Shaheen, the top priority of the new government is to focus on the economic work, create job opportunities and lift the living standards of the population, focus on the construction of Afghanistan, maintain stability and work for the peaceful coexistence of Afghan people.

As the food crisis is looming in Afghanistan, the spokesperson said Afghans are facing a humanitarian crisis and he hopes friendly countries, including its neighboring countries, will come forward and help the people of Afghanistan at this crucial time. 

"We do not want this assistance for ourselves but we want it for our people," Shaheen said, noting that it is a "moral obligation of those Western countries" to take part in the construction of Afghanistan. 

"If they do not take part, it means that they do not help the people of Afghanistan [which shows that] their slogans with values of human rights and humanitarianism are empty words. They are raising a slogan on the one hand, but are doing the opposite," he told the Global Times.

Taliban fighters hold Taliban flags while standing guard along a road in Kabul on September 9, 2021.Photo:AFP

Taliban fighters hold Taliban flags while standing guard along a road in Kabul on September 9, 2021.Photo:AFP

Many ETIM members had left

The world is watching whether the Taliban can cut off its links with terrorist organizations and whether it has the ability to restrain terrorist organizations sheltering in the country.

Faced with these questions, Shaheen told the Global Times that in the future, the counter-terrorism work will be conducted by the country's ministry of defense, ministry of interior and intelligence department. "They will be working together to ensure that no one uses the soil of Afghanistan against other countries," he said.

Furthermore, he told the Global Times that they do not have plans to conduct counter-terrorism strikes or share intelligence with other countries, and their intelligence and defense departments will do it independently. 

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.

Regarding the question of the ETIM, the spokesperson made it clear in the interview that after Doha agreement, many members of this organization had left Afghanistan because they were told no one can use Afghanistan against other countries.

He said cutting off links with terrorism is in the interest of Afghanistan as they want to focus on the construction of the country to provide a comfortable life for their people.

Shaheen also said that they have three commitments. "First, we will not allow any training on our territory. Second, we will not allow any fundraising for those who intend to carry out a foreign agenda. Third, we will not allow the establishment of any recruitment center in Afghanistan. These are the main things," he told the Global Times.

However, he did not answer directly whether the Taliban will extradite ETIM members to China if China requests it in the future.

Plan to invite delegates from China, Russia

Shaheen told the Global Times that the Taliban plans to invite high-level delegations from China and Russia to Afghanistan. He also hopes high-level Afghan delegations can visit Beijing and Moscow.

But as the new government was just announced, the invitation has not been sent but is already on their agenda.

The Chinese Embassy in Kabul is still functioning and some Chinese citizens have stayed in the country. The spokesperson said the Chinese Embassy and the diplomats are secure and provided with the security they need.

"Our security force will be there to provide security around the clock. If they have any concern, we are ready to listen and address it. Additionally, when our forces entered Kabul, we were in contact with your embassy, and your diplomats were in contact with us around the clock. We were providing them facilities and assurance," Shaheen said.

The spokesperson once again expressed the willingness to participate in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). At this moment, Shaheen also hopes China will come forward and help the people of Afghanistan by providing humanitarian assistance.

On Wednesday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China would provide 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan, as well as emergency humanitarian aid worth 200 million yuan ($31 million) including food, medicines and other winter supplies.

Who lead Afghanistan's interim government? Graphic: Feng Qingyin/GT

Who lead Afghanistan's interim government? Graphic: Feng Qingyin/GT