China evacuates nationals from Afghanistan amid US pullout

BEIJING (AP) — China sent a flight to bring home 210 of its nationals from Afghanistan, state media reported Friday, as the U.S. military prepares to leave the country and the security situation grows increasingly fraught.

The Global Times newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party said the Xiamen Airlines flight departed July 2 from the capital Kabul and landed in the central province of Hubei. The airline confirmed the report in a post on its Twitter-like Weibo account but offered no additional details.

The Global Times and other reports said 22 of those onboard tested positive for COVID-19, although those numbers did not appear on the National Health Commission’s daily report of new cases.

U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by Aug. 31 after nearly 20 years of battling the Taliban.

Chinese companies have invested in Afghan mining and infrastructure, but those assets appear increasingly in jeopardy as the Taliban seize large amounts of territory, possibly placing Kabul at risk.

Afghanistan security issues will be discussed at a meeting next week of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is led by China and Russia, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing on Friday.

Members of the group, which includes most Central Asian countries along with India and Pakistan, will discuss “promoting regional security and stability, advancing the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, and deepening cooperation between the SCO and Afghanistan,” Wang said.

“Against the backdrop of the complex evolution of the situation in Afghanistan as the U.S. and NATO complete their withdrawal from the country within a short period of time, this meeting is of great significance in properly addressing the changes in the situation in Afghanistan in the post-withdrawal era,” Wang said.

A statement will be issued following the meeting, Wang said. Afghanistan is an observer to the eight-member grouping.

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