Chinese security experts have warned that even a small number of them will still pose a threat to China’s security….reports Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Interior Minister of Afghanistan and chief of the dreaded terror outfit Haqqani Network is still living in shadow. But according to reports, he has been meeting frequently with Chen Wenqing, the Intelligence Chief of China. According to information, the last time Sirajuddin and Wenqing met was Tuesday. The meeting took place in Sirajuddin’s undisclosed location, not the Chinese embassy. It is believed that Chen conveyed China’s frustration because the New Taliban government has not broken its ties with the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as promised.

China had demanded that the Taliban break relations with all militant groups and take resolute action against the ETIM. But the Taliban has not fulfilled its promises so far. According to Afghan sources, the Chinese spy chief asked Sirajuddin Haqqani for extradition of prominent members of militant outfit ETIM.

Though the Taliban has repeatedly told the media that they have asked the ETIM fighters to leave Afghanistan but various intelligence reports suggest otherwise. The Chinese Ambassador in Afghanistan asked the Taliban leaders for details.

“Where have the members of the ETIM gone after leaving Afghanistan? How many of them are staying in the country? “he asked.

Chinese security experts have warned that even a small number of them will still pose a threat to China’s security.

ETIM militants are mainly located in Afghanistan’s provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz and Takhar.

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“Approximately 500 fighters of the group operate in the north and north-east of Afghanistan, primarily in Raghistan and Warduj districts, Badakhshan, with financing based in Raghistan, “Li Wei, an expert on national security and anti-terrorism at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

Chinese experts are apprehensive that the Chinese demand for the extradition of ETIM members would be challenging not only because of the Taliban’s consistent rejection, no matter the cost, of requests for the expulsion of militants who have helped them in their battles.

The Taliban had already made that clear two decades ago when they accepted the risk of a US invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 by refusing for the umpteenth time to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. There is little in Taliban 2.0 that suggests that this has changed.

Furious, China has also raised the issue of ETIM on Wednesday in the UN. Referring to the US decision to remove the ETIM from its Terrorist Exclusion List in October last year, Chinese envoy in the UN, Geng Shuang blamed the US of condoning and shielding the group which is a UN-designated terror organisation.

“We call for the unity and collaboration of the international community to prevent the ETIM and other terrorist forces from festering in Afghanistan, and to prevent the country from again becoming a haven and a fountainhead of terrorist activities, “the state affiliated media China Daily quoted Geng as saying.

China was among the few countries which kept its embassy open during the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and has been regularly engaging with their leadership. As per the Global Times, the Chinese have already planned the extension of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But with the CPEC projects in Pakistan already facing attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an ally of the Taliban, leading to delays, China is wary about its investments in Afghanistan too.

Will Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who himself is a designated terrorist with a bounty of $10 million, heed to the Chinese demand to extradite ETIM members to Beijing. Many experts don’t think so.

“It’s hard to see a wanted man turning over someone who is wanted for similar

reasons, “says an Afghan journalist.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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