China Increases Its Influence Over Afghanistan
It’s hardly a surprise that the United State is not the only state to recognize the geopolitical importance of Afghanistan, since China does it too. Therefore, it’s been strengthening its influence on the situation on the ground. Ever since 2011, when the Heart of Asia summit was launched, China has been making every effort to establish better ties with all the countries engaged in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Beijing would organize all sorts of meeting with its regional partners, including Iran, Pakistan and Russia, while working closely the quadripartite coordination group that consists of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China, and with the Taliban, after which one of which its most powerful wigs temporarily ceased its military activities within Afghanistan.
However, over the last three years China was growing increasingly more interested in establishing closer ties with Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of the better part of the occupying forces, that primarily consisted of US servicemen, Beijing sent a group of officials led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Kabul. In fact, over the past three years, Beijing would provide more assistance to Afghanistan than over the preceding thirteen years.
Chinese interests in Afghanistan
The reasoning behind Beijing’s motivation has been pretty clear all along, sine it hasn’t been simply pursuing a gradual decrease in the number of NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan to reduce the influence that Washington can enjoy in the country, but it would also seek to create a “buffer of stability” around China’s national borders. At the same time, official Beijing is forced to realize that as long as the situation in Afghanistan remains unstable, NATO and US forces will have a pretext for prolonging military presence in the territory of this state, in the immediate proximity of China’s provinces.
In addition, it was of extreme importance for Beijing to ensure a secure implementation of its On Belt, One Road economic initiative, to weaken the positions of various terrorist groups operating in the region, including ISIS. Radical Islamists keep ensuring that the Central Asian remain a potentially explosive political space, with a large number of sleeping cells and religious extremist groups being dispersed across the region. This allows radicals to keep Beijing at all times worried about the situation at home, that can get out of control quickly if these radicals are to be supported by external destructive forces. What’s even worse is that the ever present tension in the Central Asia can potentially jeopardize the promising One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative that implies China’s economic to the Central and South Asia.
An abrupt increase of ISIS activities in Afghanistan and Central Asia have been a point of China’s increasing concern, since this threat can only be countered with the assistance of regional players along with the steadily increasing anti-terrorist efforts of China and Russia. Beijing believes that ISIS militants are capable of infiltrating China’s territory through the Pakistan-China border in a bid to somehow attempt to derail OBOR.
China and the fight against international terrorism
In this regard, in recent years, China has launched the fight against international terrorism, joining its efforts with the countries of Central and South Asia, especially with Afghanistan, while advocating an increase in security spendings for regional players to be able to effectively counter the growing terrorist threat. It’s no wonder then that Beijing has been at the helm of pretty much every major anti-terrorist exercise for a while now. Such a policy is being pursued by Beijing largely due to the fact that according to its estimates in the medium to long term, when the conflicts that are raging across the Middle East would end, ISIS would eventually make Afghanistan along with other Central Asian states a go to area of operations.
For these reasons, ever since 2016, China’s authorities have been strengthening their state borders, while holding anti-terrorist exercises of its own. It’s also curious that according to today’s Chinese legislation, Beijing may consider deploying its troops in the territory of a neighboring state in an event that would present a major threat to China’s national security.
If one is to take into account Russia’s experience of providing assistance to Damascus in its anti-terrorist efforts, while taking into account the desire of the US to increase its influence in Afghanistan and other countries of the region, China’s politicians may be planning an increase in the investments provided to the states of the region.
As for the strengthening of China’s cooperation with Kabul in the ongoing anti-terrorist struggle, Beijing’s decision to assist the a latter in the creation of special units designated for mountain warfare is particularly noteworthy. In particular, as it’s been noted in mid-August by the press secretary of Afghan Ministry of Defense, China will finance the creation of a special forces unit in Badakhshan, which will be ensuring security in this mountainous province on the very border with Tajikistan. Beijing has not simply pledged to create the necessary infrastructure, but to support the unit with weapons and necessary equipment as well. Prior to than, China’s top brass would announce its intentions to provide Afghanistan with 73 million dollars in military assistance.
Vladimir Platov, expert specialized on the Middle East region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.“
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