WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Joe Biden said on Monday (Aug 16) that a longer war in Afghanistan would have benefited China and Russia, even as his top diplomat consulted the two adversaries on the swift Taleban victory.
“Our true strategic competitors China and Russia would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention in stabilising Afghanistan indefinitely,” Mr Biden said in a nationwide address as he staunchly defended his decision to pull troops.
Earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken nonetheless discussed Afghanistan with the foreign ministers of Russia and China, both of which have moved quickly to work with the Taleban.
Russia said Mr Blinken and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Moscow’s outreach to various Afghan political forces that is aimed at “helping ensure stability and public order”.
The two “agreed to continue consultations with the participation of China, Pakistan and other interested nations to establish the right conditions to begin an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue under the new conditions,” a Russian foreign ministry statement said.
Both Russia and China stepped up contacts with the Taleban after the United States decided to withdraw from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year military involvement and setting off the swift crumbling of the government in Kabul.
Moscow, which in Soviet times spent a decade in a costly occupation of Afghanistan during which it battled Islamic guerrillas then backed by Washington, has kept its embassy open in Kabul and plans discussions with the Taleban.
Russia has said it sees the Taleban “restoring order”, while China said on Monday it wanted “friendly and cooperative” relations” with Afghanistan under the Taleban.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Mr Biden that Beijing sought an “open and inclusive political framework”.
“China stands ready to communicate with the United States to push for a soft landing of the Afghan issue, so that a new civil war or humanitarian disaster will be prevented in Afghanistan and the country will not relapse into a hotbed and shelter for terrorism,” Mr Wang said, according to state news agency Xinhua.
China, which according to human rights groups has incarcerated more than one million mostly Muslim people from the Uighur and other minorities in a campaign Washington considers genocide, is eager to stop Islamic radicalism on its soil and is allied with Pakistan, the Taleban’s historic backer.
US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad regularly consulted Russia and China during his unsuccessful diplomacy to encourage a peaceful power-sharing agreement as the United States withdrew.