Afghanistan appeals to China to help put out raging Nuristan forest fire

Afghanistan is seeking help from China to contain a forest fire that has been raging in its eastern Nuristan province for 12 days. Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, acting deputy foreign minister of the Taliban regime, made the request during a meeting on Thursday with Ding Yinan, charge d’affaires at the Chinese embassy in Afghanistan, according to a statement released by the Chinese embassy in Kabul. Ding said that as a friendly neighbouring country, China would “help Afghanistan within its capacity to relieve difficulties in all aspects and economic reconstruction”, according to the statement on Sunday. Stanikzai hoped China could help put out the fire in Nuristan’s Nurgram district. Nuristan is one of the poorest Afghan provinces but is well known for its pine nut trees. Afghan businesspeople are trying to export pine nuts to China to ease poverty in the area. Local media cited Mullah Janan Sayq, head of the Afghan State Ministry of Disaster Management’s emergency operations centre, as saying local firefighters were sent to the area to contain the situation but failed because they lacked advanced firefighting equipment.

Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank in Beijing, said Beijing was likely to send a team from China International Search and Rescue, which was established in 2001 to aid in overseas disaster relief.

“China will give a hand to Afghanistan, but as Ding said, all the help would be within Beijing’s capacity,” Zhou said.

It is not the first time the Taliban regime has sought help from China. In September, soon after American troops withdrew from the country, the new government asked Beijing to save the country’s collapsing economy through investment, trade, loans and other revenue-producing activities.

In his meeting with Ding, Stanikzai, who is also a deputy defence minister of the Taliban regime, reiterated his country’s appreciation for China’s long-term humanitarian help and various support, adding that they welcomed greater Chinese investment in Afghanistan.

Zhou said Afghanistan’s economy had struggled for centuries and no other country had succeeded in helping Afghans solve these issues, so it was unrealistic to expect China to be an exception.

“Chinese will prefer to give advice rather than teaching them how to deal with all the ongoing difficulties,” Zhou said. “Based on the lessons and experiences of Russia and the United States in Afghanistan, Beijing doesn’t want to fall into a trap.”