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White House receives ‘intel’ on Chinese bounties against US forces

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(Last Updated On: December 31, 2020)

The Trump administration is reportedly declassifying as-yet uncorroborated intelligence, that claims China offered to pay non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack US forces, two senior administration officials tell Axios.

The Chinese embassy in Washington DC did not respond to a request for comment by Axios and according to the report outgoing President Donald Trump is not believed to have discussed the matter with China’s President Xi Jinping.

It was not immediately clear whether any members of Congress or President-elect Joe Biden have been briefed, though Biden now has access to the President’s Daily Brief.

The intelligence was included in the president’s briefing on December 17, and Trump was verbally briefed on the matter by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, officials told Axios.

According to the Axios article, administration officials across multiple agencies are currently working to corroborate the initial intelligence reports.

Axios was not able to visually inspect any reports detailing the intelligence but they reported stated a summary was described by the officials over the phone.

Axios meanwhile stated that if this intelligence were to be confirmed, it would represent a dramatic strategic shift for China, and sharply escalate tensions between China and the US and on the other hand, if the intelligence does not prove accurate, it raises questions about the motivations of the sources behind it as well as the decision to declassify it.

China has long played a quiet diplomatic role in Afghanistan, inviting Afghan Taliban officials to Beijing to discuss plans for a peace deal and encouraging an Afghan-led solution, though Chinese-made weapons and financing have at times also flowed into the conflict there.

But one senior official told Axios “like all first reports, we react with caution to initial reports” but “any intel reports relating to the safety of our forces we take very seriously.”

Another source said: “The US has evidence that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] attempted to finance attacks on American servicemen by Afghan non-state actors by offering financial incentives or ‘bounties’,” and said the National Security Council “is coordinating a whole-of-government investigation.”

He would not say whether he was referring to the Taliban, or give details about who “non-state actors” were, Axios reported.

The timing of the alleged bounty offer is unclear. The source would say only that this happened some time after late February when the US struck its deal with the Taliban.

This latest development comes just days after Afghan security officials announced they had discovered an alleged Chinese spy ring operating in the country apparently seeking to target Uyghurs.

Last week, officials confirmed that Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) detained 10 Chinese nationals on charges of espionage after busting the alleged spy ring.

The Hindustan Times reported that Beijing had tried to persuade the Afghan government to keep the case under wraps as it is a huge embarrassment for the communist country, people familiar with the matter told the Indian daily.

A senior diplomat in Kabul told the Hindustan Times that two of the 10 Chinese nationals were in touch with Haqqani Network and that Li Yangyang, one of the detainees, had been operating since July or August.

The Times reported the alleged spy was arrested by the NDS on December 10.

Another detainee, Sha Hung, reportedly ran a restaurant in Kabul’s Sherpur area, in the city center.

The Times stated that while both Chinese nationals were in touch with Haqqani Network, Li was gathering information about al-Qaeda, Taliban, and Uyghurs in Kunar and Badakhshan provinces.

Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu has reportedly been briefed about the situation by Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who in turn allegedly threatened Beijing with criminal proceedings unless it apologizes formally and admits to the violation of international protocol.

Afghanistan shares its border with China’s Xinjiang, home to Uighur Muslims who seek refuge in the country.

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IEA leader meets with Chinese officials in Qatar, discusses bilateral issues

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has again urged the US to ease sanctions against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to help the country overcome a looming humanitarian crisis.

Speaking during the first high-level meeting with the Afghan interim government in Qatar on Monday, Wang emphasized the seriousness of the problem unfolding in Afghanistan.
It was Wang’s first meeting with acting deputy prime minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar since July, when the IEA leader visited Tianjin in northern China shortly before the takeover of Kabul, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported.

“Afghanistan is facing quadruple challenges, namely the humanitarian crisis, economic chaos, terrorist threats and governance difficulties. Overcoming these challenges requires more understanding and support from the international community,” Wang said.

“China urges the Western countries led by the United States as a whole to lift sanctions, and calls on all parties to engage with the Afghan Taliban (IEA) in a rational and pragmatic manner to help Afghanistan embark on a path of sound development.”

Wang also pledged that China would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

Beijing announced last month that it would donate 200 million yuan (US$31.3 million) in aid, including food and coronavirus vaccines, to the war-torn nation, SCMP reported.

Meanwhile, a delegation led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met with a delegation led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday.

The two sides discussed issues including diplomatic relations, bilateral trade, China’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and the creation of higher education opportunities for Afghan students in China, as well as opportunities and challenges in bilateral relations.

The acting minister thanked China for its comprehensive assistance and said that the new Islamic government would ensure that Afghan soil would not be used against any country, including China.

Muttaqi said Afghanistan had a balanced foreign policy based on co-operation and understanding.

“China has an important place in our foreign policy and is an important country in the region,” he added. The whole region, including China, benefits from Afghanistan’s stability.

The Chinese Foreign Minister welcomed the recent positive developments in Afghanistan and noted that Afghanistan and China have historical ties.

He said China would work in the future based on the common interests of both countries and would never interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

Wang said his country respected Afghanistan’s security, independence and territorial integrity.

The Chinese side also stressed its support for Afghanistan to chart its own course for development.

China is playing its part in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The Foreign Minister said that his country would continue to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Islamic Emirate spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid who is accompanying the delegation said that China provided $1 million to Afghanistan and has promised to provide $5 million more in humanitarian aid, especially medicine and food.

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John Kerry and Imran Khan discuss Afghanistan on sidelines of MGI summit

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

The United States’ Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, spoke with Prime Minister Imran Khan in Riyadh yesterday on the sidelines of the “Middle East Green Initiative (MGI)” Summit.

In the regional context, the Imran Khan underscored the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan for Pakistan and the region.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister stressed the need for the international community to work pragmatically to preserve peace and security, avert a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and prevent an economic collapse.

Imran Khan also underscored the need for positive engagement and release of Afghanistan’s economic resources and financial assets for the welfare of the Afghan people.

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Afghanistan on ‘countdown to catastrophe’ as winter looms

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

The combined shocks of drought, conflict, COVID-19 and an economic crisis in Afghanistan, have left more than half the population facing a record level of acute hunger, according to a new UN assessment published on Monday.

The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), revealed that the lives, livelihoods and access to food for 22.8 million people will be severely impacted.

“It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to speed up and scale up our delivery in Afghanistan before winter cuts off a large part of the country, with millions of people – including farmers, women, young children and the elderly – going hungry in the freezing winter”, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “It is a matter of life or death”.

According to the report, more than one-in-two Afghans will face Phase 3 crisis or Phase 4 emergency levels of acute food insecurity from November through to March (winter) and will require an urgent international response to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

“We cannot wait and see humanitarian disasters unfolding in front of us – it is unacceptable”, he added.

This is the highest number of acutely food insecure people ever recorded by the UN, during 10 years of conducting IPC analyses in Afghanistan.

And globally, the country is home to one of the largest number of people facing acute hunger.

“Hunger is rising and children are dying”, said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“We can’t feed people on promises – funding commitments must turn into hard cash, and the international community must come together to address this crisis, which is fast spinning out of control”.

Among those at risk are 3.2 million children under five, who are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year.

Last month, WFP and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that without immediate life-saving treatment, one million children risked dying from severe acute malnutrition.

And for the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities.

“Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises – if not the worst – and food security has all but collapsed”, said the WFP chief.

“This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance, and unless the economy can be resuscitated”.

To meet rising needs, the UN will need to mobilize resources at unprecedented levels, yet the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan remains only a third funded.

“We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don’t act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands”, Beasley said.

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