China has once again denied reports that its military has carried out patrols inside its war-ravaged neighbor Afghanistan.
In its most recent defense, Beijing claims “the two countries were only carrying out counter-terrorism operations along their common border,” reports Reuters.
Afghanistan borders the autonomous region of Xinjiang, home to China’s largest concentration of the Muslim Uighur minority in the country.
In December, India’s World Is One News (WION) published pictures purporting to show Chinese military troops patrolling inside Afghanistan.
Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, denied the claims at the time. China and its neighbor India are regional rivals.
China’s Defense Ministry has recently denied similar claims.
“This month, the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst think-tank said in a report on its website that Chinese troops were on Afghan soil conducting joint patrols with their Afghan counterparts,” notes Reuters.
In response, Ren Guoqiang, a spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, reportedly said:
This is law enforcement bodies from China and Afghanistan, in accordance with a bilateral agreement on strengthening border law enforcement, conducting cooperation along the border so as to jointly carry out counter-terrorism and to fight against cross-border crime.
“Reports in foreign media of Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan do not accord with the facts,” he added.
China has participated in attempts to bring the Taliban to the table to negotiate peace terms with the Afghan government.
In July 2016, Afghan news outlets reported that China has begun to provide military aid to Afghanistan at the behest of Kabul.
Afghanistan requested military assistance from China in late March 2016, saying the “Afghan government remains committed and willing to work together with China for securing mutual and regional benefits” and “hailing China for its unconditional support to Afghanistan in the past 13 years,” reported Khaama Press (KP).
China reportedly provided the military aid to Afghanistan last year using Russian planes.
“The assistance to Afghan government indicates a common cause between China and Afghanistan. That common cause means that terrorism has been deemed a threat to both countries. The assistance is the beginning of a joint plan for combat against terrorism,” declared Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar at the time.
“This big regional initiative initiated by the Afghan government will steadily marginalize supporters of terrorism,” he added. “Terrorism and its supporters will not have any friends left in the region.”
Russia has also provided military aid to the Afghan government and allegedly to its enemy the Taliban as well.
In October 2015, Gen. John Campbell, then-top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, warned that if the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, other superpowers may seek to fill in the security vacuum.
“If we’re not there to provide influence, somebody else is going to be there, whether it’s Russia, China, Iran — you name it,” he said.