China uncertain if Taliban will hold good on promise of ETIM crackdown

China is concerned whether the Afghan Taliban will keep their promise to crack down on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

The questions persist after the Afghan Taliban spokesperson said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times that many ETIM members had been told to leave Afghanistan.

The Chinese government has reiterated its concerns over the terrorist group as it has been posing a direct threat to China’s national security.

As one of the most dangerous and extremist terrorist groups that aims to split the Xinjiang region from China, the ETIM has been accountable for hundreds of terror attacks in China, especially in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Global Times reported.

And its members are developing close ties with international terrorist organisations, including the Al Qaeda, and they are working to solicit Uygur people or people of other ethnic groups from Xinjiang to join the “global jihad”.

Over the past few decades, ETIM militants have scattered across Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and other countries in the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. Their presence has posed a threat to the global anti-terrorism work.

Experts on security reached by the Global Times said that there might be several hundreds of ETIM members staying in Afghanistan right now and whether the Afghan Taliban will keep their promise to crack down on the ETIM remains uncertain.

According to a report from the UN Security Council released in May 2020, the ETIM is located mainly in Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz and Takhar.

“Approximately 500 fighters of the group operate in the north and northeast of Afghanistan, primarily in Raghistan and Warduj districts, with financing based in Raghistan,” the report said.

According to data from Pakistan, there may be around 200 to 300 ETIM members in Afghanistan currently.

“Although they are paramilitary forces, as long as they exist, the unstable factor for terrorist activities exist,” Li Wei, an expert on national security and anti-terrorism at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

Many experts expressed their concerns and said that whether the Afghan Taliban will cut their ties with the ETIM remains to be seen, given their complicated relations, the report said.