ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban said Wednesday there is enough security across Afghanistan to restart major economic projects that stopped due to decades of war, despite a slew of attacks rocking the country since the group seized power more than a year ago.
The Taliban have struggled in their transition from insurgency and warfare to governing amid an economic downturn and the international community withholding official recognition.
Foreign aid stopped when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021. World governments piled on sanctions, halted bank transfers and froze billions more in Afghanistan’s currency reserves.
Taliban-appointed government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghanistan has the opportunity to connect with the rest of the countries in the region, highlighting China as a key part of the nation's economic development.
“In the last Cabinet meeting, it was decided that the Silk Road, which will connect Afghanistan with China, must be built. This historic road can play a great role in the economy of the country,” he said at a seminar about regional connectivity. “It is a great opportunity, we have good security and it is the time to start major economic projects.”
In March this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave his strong backing to Afghanistan, spotlighting Beijing’s aspirations to play a leading role in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at the same regional conference, led calls for the U.S. to unfreeze Afghan assets held abroad and end sanctions on the government.
The Taliban's deputy prime minister, Abdul Salam Hanafi, said Afghanistan’s role for the connectivity of countries in the region was very important. “Afghanistan can play a great role in creating important corridors. We want to be connected to China through our Badakhshan province."
The geopolitics and geostrategic position of Afghanistan could lead the country to play a positive role in linking neighboring countries in the region and beyond, he added.
He repeated the Taliban's assurances that the group would not allow anyone to use Afghan soil to stage attacks on other countries.
But the extremist group Islamic State, the main Taliban rival, has carried out a series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan as part of a long-running insurgency, dealing a blow to the Taliban, who have been trying to project control and strength since their takeover.
Targets have included Taliban patrols and members of Afghanistan’s Shiite minority.