The Latest: China urges that Afghan funds abroad be unfrozen

BEIJING — China says it is maintaining contact between its embassy in Afghanistan and the Taliban and is calling for Afghan government funds held abroad to be unfrozen.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Wednesday said the Chinese Embassy in Kabul was “operating normally.”

“We stand ready to maintain communication with the new Afghan authority,” Zhao said.

China has yet to say whether it will recognize the Taliban government, but has been actively courting its top officials, hosting a delegation led by its political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in July, shortly before the group swept to power amid the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the mass exodus of Afghans fearing a return of the Taliban’s hard-line Islamic rule.

China has also been sharply critical of the nature of the pullout, and, while wary of the rise of radicalism on its western border, has been generally supportive of the group seen as defeating its strategic rival, the United States.

Afghanistan is now teetering on the edge of economic collapse and while China has offered support, its not clear when or how it will deliver.

Last week, the Taliban announced an all-male interim government but the exclusion of other political factions and women has made it unlikely that they will win broad international support or international recognition as the legitimate leaders of Afghanistan.

Without such recognition, the Taliban will be unable to tap billions of its funds frozen abroad, almost all of it contributed by the U.S. and other foreign donors.

Zhao said those funds should be unfrozen and handed over to the Taliban. “Those assets belong to Afghanistan and the Afghan people,” Zhao said.

“The U.S. should face up to Afghanistan’s justified and reasonable appeals, abandon imposition of sanctions and pressure and not hinder Afghanistan’s economy, livelihood and peaceful reconstruction,” Zhao said.



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ISLAMABAD — Members of Afghanistan’s women soccer team and their families arrived in Pakistan after fleeing their country in the wake of the Taliban takeover, local media said Wednesday.

It was unclear how many Afghan women players and their family members were allowed to enter Pakistan.

According to Pakistan’s information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, the Afghan women soccer players entered Pakistan though the northwestern Torkham border crossing holding valid travel documents.

“We welcome Afghanistan women football team,” Chaudhry tweeted, providing no further details.

However, Pakistan’s English-langue The DAWN newspaper reported that the Afghan female soccer players were issued emergency humanitarian visas following the Taliban takeover of Kabul amid fears that the Taliban would not want women to participate in sports.

The Taliban have not commented on the development, but an official confirmed that under their government’s interpretation of Islam, women are not allowed to play any sports where they could potentially be exposed. The official was not authorized to speak with the media before any official announcements.

Last week, the Taliban announced an all-male interim government for Afghanistan stacked with veterans of their hard-line rule from the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the U.S.-led coalition. The move seems unlikely to win the international support the new leaders desperately need to avoid an economic meltdown.

– Munir Ahmed in Islamabad;


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch foreign ministry says it is evacuating nearly 150 people from Pakistan who fled from Afghanistan.

The Dutch government says Wednesday’s flight will pickup nearly 50 people with Dutch nationality and their Afghan families as well as Afghans who worked closely with the Netherlands in Afghanistan — mainly translators.

The government in The Hague has faced criticism in recent weeks for not acting earlier to evacuate Afghans who worked with the government over the past 20 years.

Many such Afghans fear persecution following the Taliban’s swift march to power.

The charter flight also will pick up nearly 100 other people who will fly on from Amsterdam to other European nations.