China suspended military aid to that country. The

China
Builds Military Base in                          Afghanistan

                                                      
Peter KORZUN

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The Afghan Badakhshan province shares a common
border with the China’s Xinjiang Uygur
Autonomous Region. It was
part of the ancient Silk Road
linking Asia with Europe. The Silk Road is to re-emerge to make provide aid to rebuild infrastructure
and enhance security.

China
needs stable supplies of raw materials from   Afghanistan.
 Beijing is to invest
$55 billion to create an economic corridor going via
Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea. China is the Afghanistan’s largest trading partner able to make
much desired investments.   According to its “One
Belt, One Road” (OBOR) project, a big infrastructure is to be
built in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Stability  in Afghanistan meets the China’s interests but
there is little hope the United States can bring it.   After all, it has not achieved any
substantial gains since 2001. There have been surges and reductions, changes of
tactics and strategy, numerous reports on how to change the tide but the
Taliban is strong, economy is still in shambles with and drugs trafficking
being the only business thriving. So far, the Trump administration has not
presented a long-awaited strategy defining its Afghanistan policy, despite the
fact that there are 8400 American troops in the country. The presence will
increase soon. The US relationships with pertinent  actors, such as Pakistan, are in shambles.
Washington has suspended military aid to that country.   

The instability in Afghanistan threatens the OBOR’s flagship project –
the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China has undertaken the role of
mediator to boost security in the region. Beijing is working hard  to improve the Afghanistan-Pakistan
relations. It arranged a tripartite
meeting at foreign ministers level in 2017. The talks working
panels to promote cooperation in various areas. 
Another meeting is  expected to take place this
year in Kabul.

The
East
Turkistan Islamic Movement, a Uighur
nationalist and Islamic movement from China’s Xinjiang region, is operating in Afghanistan. The militants gain
combat experience fighting side by side with the Taliban and other militant
groups.

Russia
and China step up military aid to Central Asian states.  They believe that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
(SCO) can substantially contribute into achieving peaceful settlement. Both are
trying to bring together regional states. Moscow and Beijing are motivated by
their national interests, which coincide. As major powers they are working
together to promote security in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

All
told, the China’s interest is strong enough to justify military engagement beyond
its borders. The Afghan government officials reported
that China is to
build a military base in Badakhshan.  The discussions
on the location and further technicalities for the base are
to start soon. The weapons and equipment will be Chinese but
the facility will be manned by Afghan military. No doubt, Chinese military
instructors and other personnel will come to carry out for train and assist
missions. The preparations for construction have already
begun.  Vice Chairman
of China’s Central Military Commission Xu
Qilian said
the construction is expected to be complete in 2018.

In
2017, the Taliban delivered serious strikes temporarily
capturing Ishkashim and Zebak districts of Badakhshan from the government troops. The
Afghan government failed to provide the military presence substantial enough to
ensure security. Before the attacks, an agreement with local field commanders had
been in place, giving them their share of 
 lapis lazuli production in exchange for peace. But
internal bickering undermined the fragile peace between the local groups and
the Taliban seized the opportunity to intervene. The Islamic State’s presence
in the province is a matter of special concern. 
It all makes border security an issue of paramount importance for
Beijing.

The
question is how far is China ready to go? Until now, it has limited its
military activities to special operations teams patrolling the Wakhan
Corridor.   A military base in Badakhshan is an important
move to demonstrate  Beijing is ready to
expand its presence in the country. Beijing has a trump card the US lacks – the
cooperation
of Russia and Pakistan. Beijing represents the SCO, a large international
organization comprising such actors as Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan and the countries
of Central Asia.  The SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group’s activities were restarted last year upon the initiative of Russian president Vladimir
Putin. They were suspended in 2009.  Russia
advocates launching direct talks between the Afghan Government and
the Taliban as soon as possible. Beijing supports the idea. Moscow has said it is
ready to host a
conference on Afghanistan.   

The
SCO’s participation can make the crisis management process a real international
endeavor. It will reduce the clout of the US but increase chances for peace. Security
cooperation and diplomatic activities can open new chapter in the Afghan
history. 

 

 

 

 

 

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