Taliban in Afghanistan to establish special economic zones on former military installations

The entrance to the US air base in Bagram is guarded by an Afghan National Army soldier

The Taliban-run government in Afghanistan claims to be converting some former foreign military installations into business-friendly economic zones.

Since the Taliban retook power in August 2021, Afghanistan has been dealing with a worsening economic and humanitarian crisis.

There had been foreign military presence in the nation for 20 years.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, acting deputy prime minister for economic affairs, announced the choice.

In order to turn the remaining foreign forces' military bases into special economic zones, it was decided that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should gradually assume control of them, according to a statement from Mullah Baradar on Sunday.

Without providing any additional information, he added that the project would start with locations in Kabul's capital city and the northern Balkh province.

According to Muhammad Faizal Bin Abdul Rahman of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, "The Taliban desperately needs to boost its coffers if it is to govern better and achieve some domestic legitimacy.".

The Taliban must more importantly demonstrate its dedication to economic planning. For potential foreign investors, like the Chinese, this entails creating safe zones close to the capital and borders. as well as to resurrect regional trade with neighboring nations," he added.

Natural resources worth more than $1 trillion (£831 point 5 billion) are thought to be present in Afghanistan, including natural gas, copper, and rare earths.

Due to decades of unrest in the nation, however, a large portion of those reserves remain untapped.

The last military flight from the US left Kabul Airport in August 2021, ending a 20-year presence there and the nation's longest war.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions more have been displaced by the conflict.

A number of other significant problems have hit Afghanistan's finances since the withdrawal of foreign military forces. Members of the government have been sanctioned, the central bank's foreign assets have been frozen, and the majority of the previously supportive foreign aid to the country's economy has been halted.

The Taliban declared earlier this year that it intended to sign an agreement with a Chinese company to conduct oil drilling in northern Afghanistan.

The 25-year agreement highlights China's involvement in the region's economy.

Despite having significant interests in Afghanistan, which is at the heart of a region crucial to China's Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has not officially recognized the Taliban's administration there.

The initiative, which was introduced in 2013 by Xi Jinping, offers funding to developing nations so they can construct infrastructure like ports, roads, and bridges.

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