KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban‘s new ambassador to China arrived in Beijing on Friday — the first time Afghanistan’s rulers have officially sent an ambassador to another country since returning to power more than two years ago.
No country recognizes the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan but some, including China, have embassies in the capital. Many other diplomatic missions were shuttered and their staff evacuated as the Taliban bore down on Kabul.
China is of particular importance to the Taliban, who are courting foreign investment and regional alliances amid their continued isolation on the international stage because of their restrictions on Afghan women and girls.
The new ambassador, Bilal Karimi, who has no diplomatic experience and is in his late 20s or early 30s, was welcomed in Beijing by China’s special envoy for Afghan affairs at the Foreign Ministry, Yue Xiaoyong, according to a Taliban statement. Karimi presented his credentials to the ministry’s director-general of the protocol department, Hong Lei.
Before his appointment as ambassador, Karimi was a spokesman in the Taliban-controlled administration and worked with its chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, who is close to the Taliban supreme leader.
Lei welcomed Karimi and called his appointment an important step in the development of relations between the two countries, the Taliban statement said. Lei said Karimi’s credentials will be presented to Chinese President Xi Jinping in a special ceremony.
Karimi praised China’s positive policies toward Afghanistan, especially for not intervening in domestic issues, and said the country was a good neighbor.
The Taliban have been trying to gain control of Afghan embassies over the past two years, sometimes publicly rebuking their staff for not cooperating.
In India, Afghanistan’s embassy closed last week, citing a lack of support from New Delhi and the absence of a legitimate government in Kabul.
The Taliban’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Stanikzai, told state television this week that some countries did not hand the embassies over because of political considerations or U.S. pressure. Some embassies, including the one in India, were working against the Taliban, Stanikzai claimed.
“We have consulates in Mumbai and Hyderabad. They are active and in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and provide consular services daily,” Stanikzai told RTA. “After two to three days, the embassy will open again and provide services.”
The Taliban frequently complain about the lack of official recognition.
They don’t have Afghanistan’s seat at the U.N. General Assembly — that is still held by officials from the former Western-backed government — and earlier this week they condemned their exclusion from the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.
They said summit organizers were depriving Afghans of their rights. The National Environmental Protection Agency of Afghanistan said it had prepared a comprehensive plan for this year’s meeting, but was not invited.
Much of the international community’s reluctance to engage with the Taliban stems from their restrictions on women and girls. Afghanistan is the only country in the world with bans on female education. Women are banned from most jobs and public spaces. Girls cannot go to school beyond the sixth grade, including university.