Paul D Shinkman, writing in US News said that China’s top national security decision-makers are now questioning the value of promises from the Taliban to stop organizations fighting for Uyghur causes.
China is stunned by a devastating suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan last week reportedly carried out by an Uyghur Muslim, sources say.
The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K, quickly claimed responsibility for the deadly attack at a Shiite Muslim mosque in Kunduz on Friday.
Also, the detail of the attacker-specified that the bomber was of ethnicity that largely originates from China’s restive Xinjiang Province, Uyghurs.
Beijing’s attempts to stamp out violence among its Uyghur population has emerged as perhaps its most sensitive problem at home and nearby, as shown through the lengths it’s willing to go to quash the threat it perceives, reported US News.
The highly symbolic nature of the latest attack has raised new concerns in China that its partners on the ground in Kabul are not following through on promises they made, including preventing organizations fighting for Uyghur causes from finding safe haven in Afghanistan.
It has prompted worries in Beijing that elements of the new ruling government in fact may be trying to exploit its interests there to draw greater investment and involvement, said Shinkman.
“They seem to be in a real state of panic in terms of how to deal with Afghanistan,” says a source briefed on the concerns by Chinese military officials and on their plans for the future, who like others spoke to US News on the condition of anonymity.
The principal concern lies in the growing – though debatable – suspicion in Beijing that the de facto leaders of Afghanistan’s government are actually coordinating with elements of ISIS-K, also known as the Islamic State-Khorasan Province.
“This is the first major attack since the Taliban takeover,” says Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center. “And it was carried out by an Uyghur.”
The news appears particularly ironic for the Chinese Communist Party following its outspoken campaign to capitalize on America’s failed attempts to nation-build in Afghanistan and its embarrassing withdrawal this summer, said Shinkman.
Moreover, the source of China’s latest problem lies in the Haqqani Network, sources say, the terrorist Islamic group with which the Taliban’s traditional leaders have associated themselves and which has in recent years redefined the ambitions and power centers of the entire organization.
The investments are all at risk with the new concerns of duplicity from the Haqqanis and China’s belief that they are at least communicating, if not directly coordinating, with ISIS-K, said Shinkman.
“The Chinese are coming into the realization that the Haqqanis are playing games with everybody,” the source says.
“They will cooperate, but they also want financial benefits from a relationship,” the source adds. “The Haqqanis do have a degree of infiltration in ISIS-K.”
Beijing secured rare concessions from the Taliban not to cooperate with Uyghur extremists who may seek safe haven in Afghanistan to organize and carry out attacks in retribution for China’s attempts to quell the restive Xinjiang Province.
At home, China has already systematically detained and forcibly relocated as many as 1 million Uyghurs in the far western reaches of the country – what the Chinese Communist Party calls vocational education and training centers in the Xinjiang region but which Western powers consider genocide.