China and Russia seizes on Taliban victory after US exit

Aug 17, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

The Taliban declared the war in Afghanistan over after it retook the capital, Kabul, with little resistance on Sunday (Aug 15).

After two decades of the United States’ costly and bloody efforts to support the Afghan government, the Taliban has retaken control of the country in stunning fashion, posing new risks – and opportunities – for neighbouring China and Russia.

Despite the hasty evacuation of diplomatic staff and the closure of embassies by Western nations, China and Russia have chosen to keep theirs opened under the protection of the Taliban.

China

For Beijing, the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the capital Kabul and presidential palace on Monday raises fears that turmoil and instability could spill over into its highly sensitive, western Xinjiang region, and also hurt its strategic investments under the sweeping Belt and Road Initiative.

China shares a border with Afghanistan and invests in the country’s mining and energy sectors through projects like the Mes Aynak copper mine. The Chinese government invited a Taliban delegation to Beijing in July, calling the group "a crucial military and political force" in Afghanistan.

Pictured: Chinese foreign Minister Wang Yi met Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan's Taliban in China in July 2021

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said Monday (Aug 16) that China is ready to develop “friendly and cooperative” relations with neighboring Afghanistan and “respects the wishes and choices of the Afghan people.”

“Afghanistan’s Taliban has expressed many times a desire for good relations with China, with an expectation that China will take part in Afghanistan’s rebuilding and development process, and will not allow any forces to use Afghanistan’s soil to harm China,” she said. “We welcome this.”

Hua would not be drawn on whether Beijing would explicitly recognize the Taliban as leaders of Afghanistan—she said China respected the country’s sovereignty—and the country’s Kabul embassy remains fully staffed and operational, according to the South China Morning Post.

“For the Taliban, China is Afghanistan’s largest and most powerful neighbour, and they want to secure Chinese aid and investments because they know they will not be able to stay in power without economic development,” Du Youkang, a former diplomat and international affairs researcher at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said.

“For China, the Taliban is a political force in Afghanistan that cannot be ignored, whether it is in power or not. You cannot ignore it, so under these circumstances, engaging with the Taliban is better than not engaging with them.”

Russia

In an interview Monday, Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said Moscow would not rush to recognize the Taliban and would make a decision based on the group’s actions.

Taliban forces have “taken the external perimeter of the Russian embassy under protection”, Kabulov said on Monday, and its Afghan ambassador, Dmitry Zhirnov, said Russia had a promise that “not a single hair will fall [from the heads] of Russian diplomats”.

The Russian ambassador is reportedly set to meet with the Taliban on Tuesday, AFP reported, and while some embassy staff have left the Afghan capital, Kabulov told Reuters they have not been evacuated and are taking vacation “while summer is not over.”

Afghanistan is a strategic location for Russia, which has a military base in neighboring Tajikistan.

Despite naming the Taliban a terrorist group, Russia appears ready to engage if it can ensure security for its own diplomats and prevent militants from launching assaults against its central Asian allies such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Speaking to Moscow's Ekho Moskvy radio station, Russia's ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov said he had been impressed by the Taliban's conduct so far, describing their approach as "good, positive and business-like".

"The situation is peaceful and good and everything has calmed down in the city. The situation in Kabul now under the Taliban is better than it was under (President) Ashraf Ghani," said Zhirnov.

He said schools in Kabul, including those for girls, had started functioning again.

In the last month, Russia has held military drills with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as separate exercises with China, which were aimed at “demonstrating the determination and ability of Russia and China to fight terrorism”. The timing, as the Taliban raced to victory, was no coincidence.

Unrepentant teen with a long list of offences is why some parents shouldn't breed

Nov 25, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Ralph Wee Yi Kai, a 19-year-old Singaporean man, has pleaded guilty to eight charges on Nov. 25 during his plead guilty mention before District Judge May Mesenas.

The charges include consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into the rhinoceros enclosure at the Singapore Zoo, and committing mischief by damaging property, reported CNA.

Another six charges will be considered during his sentencing.

Probation is "not realistic"

Wee pleaded guilty via video link from his place in remand, where he has been since Nov. 6.

The prosecution strongly objected to a probation suitability report, noting that Wee is "beyond the control of his parents, which renders probation unsuitable", according to CNA.

The prosecution asserted that probation "is not realistic" for Wee, based on his repeated offences and conduct in court.

They cited his "blatant disregard for rules", and urged for a reformative training suitability report instead.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Melissa Lee said Wee "has a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol", which caused him to behave aggressively towards his parents.

He also "posed a risk" to them, which led him to be admitted to the Institute of Mental Health.

"Never expected it to come to this"

Wee's defence lawyer Shashi Nathan requested for the addition of a probation suitability report, according to CNA.

Shashi maintains that his family is able to supervise Wee, and added that his client "comes from a good family" who are "able to look after him".

He said that Wee was undergoing "a severe emotional crisis" when he committed his offences, and shared that the case has also affected Wee's family, especially after their home address was released to the press.

"While Ralph understands that what he did was wrong, he never expected it to come to this," said Shashi.

Difference between probation and reformative training

Wee was ordered to go though both assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report, reported Yahoo News.

Offenders who undergo probation will not have a criminal record, while reformative training, which provides a more structured environment, results in a criminal record.

What Wee's lawyer said

Wee's lawyer said his client acted out after breaking up with his girlfriend, 18, who was the one who filmed the video of Wee backflipping in the zoo.

The defence lawyer, Shashi, said Wee spiralled into an emotional crisis as a result of his break-up.

Wee is homeschooled.

The court was told Wee saw a video of a man riding a giraffe and decided to make a video in the rhino enclosure, Yahoo News reported.

The ex-girlfriend had filmed the act and posted it on her private Snapchat account.

Wee posted it on his public TikTok account and a police report was made by a zoo personnel within the same day.

Wee removed the video when he was told to do so by the police, but reposted it on Dec. 18, before being told to remove it again, claiming he thought the video had been made private when he reposted it.

Wee had also included a link in his Instagram account biography to directed to a page selling t-shirts with the words "rhino ralph".

But he denied creating the merchandise profile.

He later removed the link.

Wee will return to court on Dec. 20 for his sentencing.

Timeline of events with updated details

Oct. 9, 2020, 2:40am: Allegedly committed an act of vandalism by hitting an information panel at a bus stop in Sixth Avenue, off Bukit Timah Road, causing S$900 in damage.

Allegedly caused damage to two cars -- S$2,800 to a Mercedes-Benz and more than S$1,600 to a BMW -- in nearby Sixth Crescent.

A taxi driver passing by reported him to the police, as Wee was standing in the middle of the road with a beer bottle in hand.

Dec. 16, 2020: Wee was placed on compulsory supervision for 60 months from Dec. 16. He was required to present himself for urine tests on each Tuesday and Thursday, but failed to turn up on four occasions.

He was placed on e-tagging during this period of time, after having been charged for his earlier offences.

He had to stay at home from 10pm to 6am as part of his bail conditions.

Dec. 17, 2020, 2.40pm: Accused of trespassing into the rhinoceros enclosure and taking a video.

Dec. 18, 2020: Reposted zoo video, despite taking it down earlier after being told to do so by the police. Told to remove video again.

Dec. 24, 2020: Accused of abusing a frog, which subsequently died, by hitting a ball against it on a foosball table, causing "unnecessary pain and suffering".

The incident allegedly took place at a Sentosa Cove property.

July 2021: First hauled to court and charged with two counts of mischief, as well as one count each of vandalism and criminal trespass.

Bail was then set at S$15,000.

Aug. 6, 2021: Allegedly consumed cannabis while out on bail. Arrested at his residence and two urine samples obtained tested positive for weed. S$15,000 bail revoked.

Sep. 14, 2021: Allegedly possessed an e-vaporiser and six e-cigarette pods at a ward in the Institute of Mental Health.

Three police officers showed up at IMH, where Wee was warded, to arrest him for failing to attend court.

He was admitted to IMH due to his drug and alcohol abuse, as had acted aggressively towards his parents when they demanded the drugs from him.

He was warded in IMH due to the risk he posed to his parents.

Oct. 13, 2021: Charged with one count of drug consumption while still in remand.

Bail raised to S$20,000 and Wee was released.

While out on second bail, Wee committed a string of offences, including cutting his electronic tag, according to ST, as well as not reporting for his urine tests on a few occasions, CNA reported.

The prosecution has called for an urgent bail review hearing to have Wee's second bail revoked for the alleged fresh offences.

Oct. 26, 2021: Allegedly cut a S$100 GPS ankle tag at an address on Leedon Road at about 12:10am.

Prior to this act, Wee was upset at his father, who had asked Wee to sleep early since he had to report for his urine test in the morning.

After arguing with his father, Wee decided to leave the house, and used pliers to cut off his e-tag before cycling to his friend’s house.

Upon discovering that Wee was missing, his father called the police.

The e-tag, worth S$100, was damaged and could no longer be used.

It was found in Wee’s house.

Oct. 28, 2021: Allegedly possessed an e-cigarette pod at the Leedon Road address.

Nov. 5, 2021: Warrant of arrest issued, as Wee could not wake up to attend court.

Nov. 6, 2021: Wee arrested.

Nov. 12, 2021: Slapped with four additional charges.

Nov. 25, 2021: Pleaded guilty to consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into a rhino enclosure, and committing mischief by damaging property belonging to others.

Ordered to go though assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report.