Blinken reaches out to China and Russia on Afghanistan

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell Top US envoy to Afghanistan resigns Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief MORE on Monday spoke with his counterparts in China and Russia about the security situation in Afghanistan.

The calls come as both Beijing and Moscow have signaled an openness to recognizing and working with the Taliban, which over the weekend swiftly ousted the Western-backed government in Kabul. 

Blinken spoke separately with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi about developments in Afghanistan, including the security situation and both countries' respective efforts to bring U.S. and Chinese citizens to safety, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Similarly, in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Blinken discussed U.S. efforts to bring American citizens and vulnerable Afghans to safety. 

The outreach to China and Russia signals a push by the Biden administration to unite the international community as a bulwark against the Taliban’s push to seek legitimacy for its takeover of the country. 

China and Russia are permanent members, alongside the U.S., of the United Nations Security Council, which issued a joint statement on Monday expressing deep concern for the future of vulnerable populations in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s Islamic-fundamentalist rule, where gruesome violence is used to maintain an order that keeps women, girls and minorities largely excluded from society.

The Security Council statement called for negotiations for a new government in Afghanistan that includes the “full, equal and meaningful participation of women” and described the situation as a “crisis of authority in the country.” 

The U.S. has sought to work with China and Russia on issues of global stability, despite the nations' adversarial relationship with the U.S. and what American officials see as efforts to undermine American leadership and the traditional Western order of free, open societies in favor of authoritarian control. 

How China and Russia approach Afghanistan could either hamper or bolster U.S. efforts in the region. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Beijing has so far offered statements calling for a “smooth transition” in Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover and said it will work to “continue to develop good-neighborliness and friendly cooperation” with Afghanistan.  

"The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hope to develop good relations with China, and that they look forward to China's participation in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, according to AFP

China met with Taliban leaders last month in Beijing and expressed similar, friendly sentiments. 

Meanwhile, Russian officials have described an easy cooperation with the Taliban in an effort to continue diplomatic operations in the country while securing the safety of their personnel. 

"Our embassy will stay in contact with specially assigned representatives of the Taliban higher leadership to work out a permanent mechanism of ensuring safety of our embassy," Zamir Kabulov, Russia's representative in Kabul, told Reuters by phone on Monday. 

Zamir described the Taliban relieving government security forces in Kabul “by disarming them absolutely peacefully and took the place of policemen.” 

The Russian representative further downplayed the security situation in the capital, even as thousands of Afghan civilians have descended on the international airport in an effort to flee the country and the U.S. has evacuated all of its embassy personnel.  

“A part of our staff will be sent on vacation or evacuated in some other way simply not to create too much of a presence,” Kabulov reportedly told a Russian radio station, later clarifying his remarks to Reuters that embassy staff will go on “vacation.” 

"Some employees will leave for vacation while summer is not over," he said, declining to say how many members of the Russian mission would be withdrawn from Afghanistan.