China cuts deal with Taliban to extract oil in Afghanistan

The Taliban is cutting its first major energy extractions agreement since taking control of Afghanistan in 2021, agreeing to a 25-year pact with a Chinese company to drill for oil in the country’s Amu Darya basin.

“The Amu Darya oil contract is an important project between China and Afghanistan,” Wang Yu, the Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan, said at a press conference in Kabul, according to a BBC report last week.

The Taliban’s agreement is with China’s Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Company and is set for 25 years, while another Chinese state-owned company is also reportedly in talks with the Taliban to operate a copper mine in eastern Afghanistan.

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Taliban fighters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2021.
(AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi)

The deal comes as Chinese nationals have faced increasing security concerns as the country strengthens its ties to the Taliban, including an ISIS-K attack last month on a Kabul hotel popular with Chinese businessmen.

The attack killed at least three people and injured another 18, including five Chinese nationals, and came despite assurances by the Taliban that security is “guaranteed” for Chinese citizens and other foreigners.

Some observers believe such attacks on Chinese nationals are likely to continue, pointing out that Afghanistan’s ISIS offshoot has taken issue with China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

“I definitely expect… similar attacks in the future, against the interests of countries that are attempting to forge close relations with the Taliban regime,” Faran Jeffery, the deputy director and head of the South Asia terrorism desk at the Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism, told the South China Morning Post Monday.

Taliban fighters guard the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

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“[ISIS-K] has referred to China’s communist godless nature… its oppression of Uyghur Muslims and its relationship with the Afghan Taliban as legitimate reasons to attack its interests in Afghanistan,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Taliban boasted last week that its forces carried out an operation against the ISIS-K group responsible for the attack on the hotel, reporting that eight Islamic State militants were killed in the raid.

The Taliban has continued to look to China, which has not yet formally recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan, as a friendly trade partner to tap its vast reserves of resources.

Afghanistan sits on reserves of natural gas, copper and rare earth minerals estimated to be worth over $1 trillion, which remain untapped amid decades of war and turmoil in the country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping
(Ju Peng/Xinhua via Getty Images)

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Gordon Chang, a China expert, told Fox News Digital last year that an alliance between the two sides would likely continue to grow.

“It looks like the so-called Red-Green alliance is thriving in Central Asia,” he said. “Evildoers like to work together. So should we be surprised that China’s Communist Party and Afghanistan’s Taliban are cooperating even more closely than before?”