Why is China building an army base in Afghanistan?
China is quietly negotiating with war-torn Afghanistan to construct a military base in its remote and mountainous Wakhan Corridor. The Asian superpower is worried that the militants might infiltrate into the "restive Chinese region" of Xinjiang from Afghanistan, said Afghan officials. The base would be built in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan that borders Xinjiang with a Muslim Uighur minority. Here's more.
Wakhan inhabitants retain strong links with the Xinjiang neighbors
Locals of Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in Badakhshan, where the Chinese army camp would be built, have reported seeing both Afghan and Chinese troops on joint patrols. Afghan Defense Ministry Deputy Spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh said Wakhan is isolated, suggesting the locals are unaware of the Afghan conflict but share "strong links" with neighbors in Xinjiang, which is considered a potential source of instability by China.
Details are being clarified: Mohammad Radmanesh
Mohammad Radmanesh said both Chinese and Afghan officials discussed the matter in Beijing in Dec'17. He, however, added, "We are going to build it (the base), but the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers."
China fears Islamic State, Uighur members entering Xinjiang
China feels the need to build a military base in Afghanistan amid President Xi Jinping efforts to boost the country's economic and geopolitical power. China is investing billions into infrastructure in South Asia and is worried about Afghanistan's "potential to destabilize" the region. It fears East Turkestan Islamic Movement's exiled Uighur members and ISIS militants entering into Xinjiang via Wakhan for carrying out attacks.
Chinese, Afghan army patrols seen in Wakhan Corridor
Members of the Kyrgyz ethnic minority reported seeing Afghan and Chinese army personnel in Wakhan Corridor. Kyrgyz chief Abdul Rashid said he saw vehicles bearing Chinese flags, adding Afghan army warned them not to interact with troops. He suggested they first came two years ago. Another chief Jo Boi said Chinese troops spent over a year there before Mar'17; now they come every month.
Not engaged in any military operation: Chinese Defense Ministry
However, some officials China have denied Kyrgyz's claims. China's Defense Ministry said, "Chinese army is not engaged in any military operation in the Wakhan Corridor." But, a senior official in China's embassy in Kabul stated the country is involved in "capacity-building" in Afghanistan.
China needs secure Afghanistan to protect its economic interests
China is concerned that militancy in Afghanistan could be a threat to its growing economic interests in the region, according to Ahmad Bilal Khalil of Kabul's Center for Strategic and Regional Studies. He said China needs "a secure Afghanistan," adding it has provided military-aid of over $70mn in three years. China also indicated the possibility of including Afghanistan in the $54bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Kabul keen for Beijing's active role: A transatlantic expert
Andrew Small, author of The China-Pakistan Axis, said Afghanistan is hoping China would use its "special relationship" with Pakistan to prompt the Pakistani military, which has influence over Afghanistan's insurgents, to "force the Taliban into peace talks." He added, "In the end, China has vastly greater financial power than anyone else. Having them engaged...may end up being critical to the country's basic economic viability."