The ruling Taliban has signed a deal with a Chinese company to extract oil from northern Afghanistan’s Amu Darya basin as the radical Islamist group attempts to bolster the South Asian nation’s increasingly impoverished and isolated economy.
The agreement with China’s Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Co is the first major international energy extraction deal the Taliban has signed since taking control of Afghanistan in 2021.
The contract was signed in Kabul in the presence of Taliban’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and the Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan, Wang Yu, according to a statement from the Taliban government.
Baradar referred to the deal as being in Afghanistan’s best interests, adding that it would strengthen the country’s economy, the statement said.
“In terms of natural resources, Afghanistan is a wealthy nation. In addition to other minerals, oil is the wealth of the Afghan people on which the economy of the country can rely,” Baradar said.
According to the contract, the Chinese firm will invest up to $150 million a year, which will increase to $540 million in three years. “The project directly provides job opportunities for 3,000 Afghans,” the statement said.
While no country has officially recognized the Taliban, China has substantial investment in the region. Afghanistan is in desperate need to boost its economy and since the Taliban’s return to power, international funding has remained largely frozen.
One of the main issues for Western countries has been the new government’s marginalization of minorities and women. In December, the UN suspended some of its “time-critical” programs in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s ban on female NGO workers.
The Taliban last month also suspended university education for all female students in Afghanistan, drawing condemnation from around the world.