Five men, including two Chinese nationals, were arrested by the Taliban over the alleged smuggling of an estimated 1,000 metric tons of lithium-bearing rocks out of the country, local media reported. The Chinese nationals were reportedly trying to smuggle the 'precious' stones from Afghanistan to China via Pakistan by means of their Afghan allies.
The arrests and the rock confiscation took place in Jalalabad, a border city in eastern Afghanistan, according to Reporterly. According to local sources, the rocks contained up to 30 per cent of lithium and were "secretly" extracted from Nuristan and Kunar, two of the several Afghan provinces along the border with Pakistan.
The Chinese nationals and their Afghan collaborators were planning to illegally transport the "precious stones" to China via Pakistan, said the Taliban intelligence officials in comments aired Sunday by Afghan television channels, according to Reporterly. The relationship between China and Afghanistan has become dicey since December 12 when a bomb and gun attack targeted a hotel, injuring five Chinese nationals.
This attack led to Beijing's tepid approach as China in its advisory asked citizens to leave Afghanistan. However, in November last year, Afghanistan is seen in talks with China to rekindle the ancient Silk Road trade routes in order to help its dwindling economy. But it seems that Afghanistan also had the same plan as China.
On August 15 in 2021, when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, China expressed its readiness to provide friendly cooperation to the landlocked nation. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also intended to play a constructive role in Afghanistan. In fact, China like Pakistan, Russia, and Iran had emerged as trusted allies of the Taliban regime, according to Al Arabia Post. Beijing treats the landlocked country with tact and caution--no big investment or assistance, except for a few trades in cheap goods.