Washington: The Taliban earlier this month announced a deal with a Chinese company to enable oil extraction in the Amu Darya basin in northern Afghanistan, raising alarm bells in the west.

The signing ceremony of the over USD 500 million deal took place on January 5 in the presence of the Chinese envoy to Afghanistan Wang Yu, and other high-ranking Taliban officials, including Abdul Ghani Baradar, the acting deputy prime minister for economic affairs.

"The agreement, the Taliban's first major energy investment contract since its 2021 takeover, represents China's growing strategic interest in the Islamic Emirate," wrote, Washington-based researcher Kyle Sajoyan in the "19fortyfive" publication.

"Despite the growing number of terrorist attacks targeting Chinese nationals in the region, the PRC is showing no signs of stopping its global imperial project in the Muslim world," he added.

Sajoyan, who is a researcher at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC, said "this recent deal is a prelude to closer economic and security cooperation between Kabul and Beijing, a partnership that will jeopardize Washington's vested interests in the region while limiting America's ability to respond."

This deal comes amid rising violence against Chinese nationals in Taliban-run Afghanistan. Last month, gunmen from ISIS-K targeted a Kabul hotel popular with Chinese businessmen.

Despite the growing terrorist threat targeting Beijing, it signed a massive deal to exploit the country's oil reserves. According to a Washington-based expert, part of it is China's growing demand for crude oil as the country reopens after three years of zero-COVID.

"The Amu Darya Basin in northern Afghanistan where the extractions are to take place contains an estimated 87 million barrels worth of crude oil. But outside of Beijing's energy needs is the resource gold mine that Afghanistan sits on," Sajoyan wrote 19fortyfive.

Earlier, the Khaama Press News Agency reported that oil will be produced in the northern provinces of Faryab, Jowzjan and Sar-e Pol, starting with 1,000 tonnes a day. The Taliban-run administration will initially have a 20 per cent stake in the project, which will be gradually increased to 75 per cent to match the rising output.

The Afghan news agency added that the Taliban expects to create 3,000 jobs with this project.

This comes as foreign investment in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is almost zero since the Islamic outfit's takeover in August 2021. According to the Khaama report, the Taliban is desperately knocking on every single door to attract foreign investment to the country.