Afghanistan: Taliban plans to create special economic zones out of former military bases

At the entrance to the US air base in Bagram, an Afghan National Army soldier keeps watch

According to the Taliban government in Afghanistan, some former foreign military bases will become business-friendly economic zones.

Since the Taliban regained control of the nation in August 2021, Afghanistan has experienced a worsening economic and humanitarian crisis.

The nation had been occupied by foreign military forces for 20 years.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the temporary deputy prime minister for economic affairs, made the announcement.

According to a statement released by Mullah Baradar on Sunday, "it was decided that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should gradually take control of the remaining military bases of the foreign forces with the intention of converting them into special economic zones.".

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

If it wants to improve its administration and gain some domestic legitimacy, the Taliban "devastatingly needs to boost its coffers," Muhammad Faizal Bin Abdul Rahman of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore told the BBC.

More significantly, the Taliban must demonstrate its dedication to economic planning. In order to protect potential foreign investors, including Chinese ones, safe zones must be established close to the capital and the borders. he continued, "as well as to resurrect regional trade with neighboring nations.

According to estimates, Afghanistan is home to natural resources worth more than $1tn (£831.5bn), including rare earths, copper, and natural gas.

However, because of the country's protracted instability, a large portion of those reserves remain untapped.

The final US military flight from Afghanistan in August 2021 signaled the conclusion of the country's 20-year presence there and its longest war.

Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict, and millions more have been displaced.

Afghanistan's finances have since been severely impacted by a number of other significant problems since the withdrawal of foreign military forces. Government officials have been sanctioned, the central bank's foreign assets have been frozen, and the majority of the foreign aid that had previously boosted the country's economy has been suspended.

The Taliban announced earlier this year that it intended to work with a Chinese company to drill for oil in northern Afghanistan.

The 25-year agreement highlights China's economic presence in the area.

Beijing has substantial interests in Afghanistan, which is at the center of a region crucial to China's Belt and Road Initiative but has not officially recognized the Taliban government there.

The initiative, started by Xi Jinping in 2013, offers funding to developing nations so they can build infrastructure like ports, roads, and bridges.

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