Taliban authorities have arrested five men including two Chinese nationals over the alleged smuggling of lithium-bearing stones out of the country, according to local sources.
In collaboration with their Afghan allies, two Chinese nationals were trying to smuggle precious stones from Afghanistan to China through Pakistan.
According to sources, the rocks contained 30 percent lithium, extracted from Nuristan and Kunar, the two provinces sharing a border with Pakistan. The smugglers were arrested in Jalalabad, an eastern border city in Afghanistan.
Taliban intelligence personnel said Chinese nationals in collaboration with their Afghan partners wanted to transport the precious stones to China via Pakistan while arrested.
China is one of the few countries in the region that has maintained close ties with Afghanistan’s de facto authorities. With the U.S. and its Western allies gone, China found the best opportunity to achieve its economic and strategic objectives in the war-torn country by commencing its Road and Belt initiative.
However, security remains a major concern for foreign nationals currently working in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban’s return to power, terror attacks took place at the Russian Embassy, Pakistan Diplomatic Mission and a Chinese-Run hotel in the heart of Kabul, resulting in the death and injury of scores of people including foreign nationals.
Following the terror attack targeting a Chinese-run hotel in Kabul, Beijing advised the Chinese to leave Afghanistan immediately. Despite the security threats, China has an intense interest in investing in Afghanistan, as the Taliban authorities have already contracted the extraction of the Amu oil field with the Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) last month.
After the withdrawal of the U.S. and international forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, similar to Pakistan, Iran, and Russia, China wants to play a central role in matters of Afghanistan, with a particular focus on energy and construction projects.