China is reportedly prepared to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan if it topples the capital of Kabul — a possibility that could be days away.
Beijing has publicly pressured the Taliban to continue working toward a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani's government – an outcome Beijing appears to prefer and that Washington has pressed.
But according to U.S. News and World Report, which cited unnamed U.S. and foreign intelligence sources, new Chinese military and intelligence assessments of Afghanistan have prompted leaders in the Chinese Communist Party to prepare to formalize their relationship with the insurgent network rather than work toward a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
The move comes as the Taliban has now overrun 10 major provincial capitals, including one near Kabul, the news outlet noted, adding it would also undermine U.S. attempts to pressure the Taliban to return to diplomatic negotiations in Doha, Qatar.
"If the Taliban claim to want international legitimacy, these actions are not going to get them the legitimacy they seek," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday, the news outlet reported.
"They could choose to devote the same energy to their peace process as they are to their military campaign. We strongly urge them to do so."
Stability in Afghanistan would allow China to reap the benefits of prior economic investments in the region, including mineral rights in Afghanistan, the news outlet reported. China also wants stability in Afghanistan to protect infrastructure projects it's already pursuing in neighboring Pakistan, U.S. News reported.
Yet China has begun preparing for what it considers more realistic contingencies that would give both Beijing and the Taliban what they want, experts say.
"If you suspect there's a good possibility that a new government is coming to power, it's potentially useful to set conditions such that if those folks succeed in taking power, you're well positioned to extract a bargaining concession from them," Tyler Jost, a professor at Brown University who studies Chinese national security decision-making, told U.S. News.
"In this case, any potential connections between Islamist groups and Xinjiang would likely be front and center in the minds of Chinese decision-makers. It's such a central priority for them."
Fran Beyer ✉
Fran Beyer is a writer with Newsmax and covers national politics.
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