Taliban is 'more powerful than ever' says commentator
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Adrian Hill has also suggested China’s President Xi Jinping is likely to regret “getting into bed” with Pakistan – which he said, in turn, meant aligning itself with the Taliban, thought to be on the brink of overthrowing Afghanistan’s Government. Mr Hill, 80, was speaking as the clock ticks down to the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by August 31, with the Taliban currently thought to control 85 percent of the country.
US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week admitted the terrorist organisation could “completely take over” the country within months.
China has long been strategically aligned with Pakistan, whose Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) “created the Taliban”, Mr Hill, whose diplomatic posts included working as a member of the Channel Tunnel team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the COBRA Committee of the Cabinet Office, told Express.co.uk.
Mr Hill joined HM Diplomatic Service after serving as a paratrooper and then an officer in the Royal Engineers.
His first overseas duty was in Lahore during the mid-1960s, during which time he drove all over the North West Frontier, Afghanistan and India getting to know the local people.
He explained: “In those days Afghanistan was ruled by a king to whom the tribal leaders were loyal despite his modernisation drive. Girls went to school and in Kabul some wore miniskirts.
“The British Embassy compound was large and impressive, 20 green acres, the residence had the largest varnished ballroom floor in south west Asia – all meant to impress that we were a more civilised and advanced nation than our French, German and Russian rivals a hundred years before.
“The FCO sold it Pakistan. It was used as HQ for raising the Taliban and the gardens today are a desert. Boris should demand it back.”
In September 1965 the Pakistan Intelligence service sent the forerunners of the Taliban into Indian Kashmir and a full scale war broke out, Mr Hill said.
Lahore was almost captured during a massive tank battle and the front line was less than four miles from his bungalow garden.
He added: “Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency ( ISI ) has learned nothing from 1965 nor 1971 when more than half the population broke away after another war and became Bangladesh, taking with them most of the agriculture and the clothing industries.
“More than half of modern Pakistan is the Sind Desert.”
He warned: “Before long Pakistanis will find their country torn apart by religious factions and shunned by most of the world.
“That’s how China controls its client states. It will be a shame because the ordinary people are the salt of the earth.”
Mr Hill thought it was unlikely that China would directly involve itself in any conflict which might erupt in Afghanistan.
He explained: “China has not fought a major enemy since the 1960s. Peking prefers to fight through its client states – North Vietnam, North Korea.
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“Last time they fought a border war – against the Vietnamese – they got the worst of it. Recent aggression towards India among the Himalayas was held at a level China could switch off quickly.
“Colonising other peoples’ coral reefs in the South China Sea employs large fleets of militia fishing boats rather than a battle fleet.”
He added: “China would far prefer to use the American bug out as the perfect illustration of why no Asian should rely on the United States.
“There is evidence of Chinese intelligence activity in Afghanistan. Generally its low-level exploration to find and develop sources and networks among the population.
“There is economic imperialism – to quote a Pakistani friend who was their representative at the World Bank – building ports for belt and road at the host country’s expense.
“All manner of shaky economies owe money to China. Pakistan took China’s money to build roads from Baluchistan to their new port on the Arabian Sea. Afghanistan is next door.”
Afghanistan’s natural resources are estimated to be worth around $1 trillion, with China in a good position to cash in, Mr Hill suggested.
He explained: “Chinese companies are involved. Two own a 30-year lease to extract the second largest copper deposit in the world worth at least $50 billion.
“Another has a lease on three oil fields to drill for 25 years, estimated about 87 million barrels of oil.
“Not much has happened on the ground but nobody should be surprised given what’s going on. Starting with America’s pull out.”
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Looking to the future, he added: “Although China denies any interest in building overseas military bases, China has built a second foreign military base in Tajikistan, close to the Wakhan Corridor – that strip through the mountains which connects Afghanistan with China.
“Peking claims it’s for counterterrorism against Uyghur militants and other insurgents crossing the border into western China.
“Similarly, in 2018, the Afghan Embassy in Beijing revealed that China is helping Afghanistan set up a mountain brigade in the north, but said that there will no Chinese troops on Afghan soil.”
Beijing’s ambitions would likely become clear after the US pullout, Mr Hill predicted.
He said: “China has already asked for good behaviour guarantees from the Taliban – whether the war ends or drags on. The last thing China wants is the Taliban linking with the Uyghur. Well, let’s wait and see.”
“For China’s communist party fat cats the world looks pretty good.
“They can prove effortlessly that Joe Biden’s America is a paper tiger, more concerned with woke politics than the safety and welfare of millions of Asians who relied on America.”
As for Britain’s role, Mr Hill urged Mr Johnson he could not afford to be seen to be intimidated by China.
He said: “We Brits should carve out our own position. Afghans and Pakistanis are keen to know where we stand.
“At the most elementary level we have to be seen as loyal friends and that means looking after all those people who are in danger because they helped our soldiers and diplomats.”
Mr Hill added: “We should also maintain a diplomatic base. Otherwise we won’t know the moment anything changes. That won’t be a fun posting but we should lean on Pakistan to make their clients, the Taliban, behave, if necessary putting their own troops into Kabul to safeguard diplomatic missions. Pakistan needs our money, anyone’s money!
“The alternative is to pull out our people and flatten various places – as we should have done Kunduz airfield when the entire Taliban Army with their ISI handlers waiting for an airlift after 9/11.
“We need to keep an embassy, a watch tower if you like, because technology cannot replace human friendships, we need to know what the Afghans want, from their own mouths.
“Because if we do need to take action, we will do so with naval power. Other countries may want to be involved, India keeps a close watch on events in Afghanistan.
“Again, if we are serious about Global Britain, we need a navy with four times as many ships, nuclear submarines and aircraft.”
He stressed: “Don’t let them down. Global Britain is supposed to stand up to bullies.
“By getting into bed with Pakistan the Chinese are also in the sack with the Taliban.
“I have a hunch that they’ll pay a heavy price for that gambler’s choice.”
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