Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, boasted in an interview with Voice of America News (VOA) Thursday that China is ready to pour billions of dollars into Afghanistan even as the rest of the world is trying to isolate the extremist regime. .
Mujahid said China demands assurances from the Taliban that its workers and property will be protected, and in return, the Taliban expect Beijing to respect its sovereign rule.
“China is a neighbor and has a strong economy. We are trying to develop trade and economic relations with them. However, although we want China to trade and invest with us, we will not tolerate any interference in our internal affairs, ”Mujahid said.
The Taliban minister cited the Mes Aynak copper mine, the largest in Afghanistan and one of the largest in the world, as “one of the important areas where [the Chinese] want to invest billions of dollars, ”he said, which his regime badly needs.
“We promised them the security of their investments and their assets,” Mujahid said.
Mes Aynak also happens to be the site of a 5,000 year old Buddhist town, a archaeological discovery of potentially immense importance for Buddhist and Afghan history which has only been excavated at ten percent:
Two Chinese state-owned enterprises secured the drilling concession to Mes Aynak in 2017, but the project was delayed by a shortage of coal and mineral reserves needed to support the operation. Work was also delayed by security threats from the Taliban insurgency and by highly controversial concerns that operating the mine would require damaging or clearing the archaeological site.
VOA asked Mujahid about complaints by the Islamic State that the suicide bomber he sent attack a mosque in Kunduz last week was a Uyghur, the oppressed Muslim people of China’s Xinjiang Province. Western analysts have viewed the unusually specific identification of the suicide bomber as an effort by ISIS to drive a wedge between the Taliban and China.
“We have not spoken to any country about this issue. All Daesh members are Afghans. There are no foreigners among them, ”Mujahid told VOA, using another name for ISIS.