China tells its nationals to leave Afghanistan urgently as violence spirals

·3-min read

Beijing has warned Chinese nationals to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, amid a rapid rise in violence in the country as the Taliban recaptures territories ahead of the complete withdrawal of US and Nato troops.

China’s embassy in Afghanistan said on Saturday that Chinese citizens and organisations needed to take extra precautions and strengthen their emergency preparedness as the situation deteriorated.

“This year, the conflicts in Afghanistan are constant, the terrorist attacks are frequent and the security situation is becoming more severe and complicated,” the embassy said in a notice, urging Chinese citizens to “be more cautious” and to “urgently depart from the country through international commercial flights”.

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China has blamed a surge of attacks on the abrupt withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by the United States and the transatlantic security alliance after nearly two decades of their presence.

A series of explosions at a girls’ school in Kabul last month killed more than 60 people, and the Taliban has ramped up its attacks in its takeover of strategic districts ahead of the complete withdrawal of US troops by September 11, with heavy casualties in fighting between the militants and Afghan forces.

US President Joe Biden is set to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this Friday to try to assure the Afghan people of Washington’s support despite the withdrawal of US troops, which began in May.

The White House said in a statement on Sunday that the US would remain “deeply engaged” with Afghanistan to ensure that the country “never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the US homeland”.

But the Pentagon’s top leaders have warned of the consequences of the complete and unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan, including the risk of an extremist group such as al-Qaeda regrouping there in the coming years.

The growing violence has raised fears for Beijing that instability and terrorism could spill over into its borders, including into the neighbouring Xinjiang region, where China has been accused of repression of Uygurs and other Muslim-majority ethnic minority groups.

It could also threaten Chinese development projects under Beijing’s infrastructure investment strategy the Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing indicated this month that it wanted to “substantially expand” its projects under the initiative, including in Afghanistan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a meeting with Afghanistan and Pakistan in June that the accelerated withdrawal of US troops posed a “challenge” to Afghanistan, but could be beneficial for the country’s long-term security.

Wang said China supported talks between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators, stressed that there should be an “orderly withdrawal” of US troops to prevent the resurgence of terrorist forces, and said the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation could play a bigger role in the peace process.

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