China Stands by Taliban Haven Pakistan While Reaping Benefits of U.S. Role in Afghanistan

taliban afghanistan
AP Photos/Allauddin Khan

Beijing has indicated that it will continue to take advantage of America’s efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, supporting its ally Pakistan as it harbors the Afghan Taliban while mining Afghanistan’s resources.

Pakistan has made a deal with China to allow it to mine Afghanistan’s lucrative mineral resources, valued at about $1 trillion.

China is benefiting financially from Afghanistan while the United States stands by. The United States has spent $714 billion on security and reconstruction projects, which are also expected to benefit China.

Beijing has denounced U.S. President Donald Trump for condemning its ally Pakistan over its support of Islamic terrorism that even China has admitted poses a threat to Asia, including itself.

While lambasting Pakistan for harboring jihadists that have killed and maimed American troops in Afghanistan, President Trump praised India, considered a regional rival by both Beijing and Islamabad.

Trump’s support for India dismayed both China and Pakistan, who have suggested the only way to end the Afghan war is through political negotiations, rather than military escalation.

“It’s our firm view that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, the focus should be on a politically negotiated settlement,” declared Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif during a joint press briefing with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

China is well aware that Islamic extremist activities within its borders, primarily stemming from its neighbors Pakistan and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, have become more frequent and high profile.

Nevertheless, an editorial published by the state-controlled Chinese new outlet Global Times notes:

The Chinese government has generally looked favorably toward Washington’s latest decision, but disagrees over the Trump administration’s tough stance on Pakistan. … Despite the importance of China’s military involvement on the Afghanistan issue, China is unlikely to send troops to the country in a short term, and may choose to have limited participation in the long run in accordance with its national security interests.

According to the U.S. military, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is home to the largest concentration of Islamic terrorist groups in the world: 20 of the 98 U.S. or UN-designated terrorists organizations.

China’s autonomous province of Xinjiang, home to the country’s largest concentration of the Muslim Uighur minority, borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and neighboring Afghanistan.

As the threat of extremism and terrorism facing China grows—originating in neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan—Beijing has instead chosen to maintain its relationship with Pakistan and support for Islamabad’s ally the Taliban, which has enabled its investment in lucrative mineral mines by agreeing not to attack Chinese workers.

Beijing has decided not to significantly assist the U.S.-led coalition in its effort to combat some of the very same Afghan-based terrorists that have threatened China, namely al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

The United States has invested $714 billion in Afghanistan, including about $120 billion on reconstruction, since the war started in October 2001.

China’s economic interests in Afghanistan extend beyond the mining of minerals to reaping the rewards of the U.S. reconstruction efforts.

The communist country is expected to extend its $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan, reported the National. 

Beijing also plans to expand CPEC, a component of China’s new Silk Road project valued at about $3 trillion, to the Afghanistan’s other neighbors in the Middle East and Central Asian nations as part of its effort to build a new Silk Road—the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative.

The new Silk Road is focused on linking infrastructure across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and use the projects to build and connect industrial zones.

In May, Ahmed Bilal Khalil, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and Regional Studies in Kabul, told the National:

China can expect a lot of economic benefits by investing in Afghanistan. Such investments will strengthen Chinese projects in Pakistan, and also help China to access natural resources in Afghanistan. Afghanistan also has the abundant potential of hydroelectricity, which Chinese companies can tap and sell in Pakistan.

The U.S. is aware that China has carried out limited military patrols inside Afghanistan, but likely only to protect its investments.

In March, the Military Times reported:

There is mounting evidence that Chinese ground troops are operating inside Afghanistan, conducting joint counter-terror patrols with Afghan forces along a 50-mile stretch of their shared border and fueling speculation that Beijing is preparing to play a significantly greater role in the country’s security once the U.S. and NATO leave.

In other words, it appears that it would take complete U.S.-NATO troop withdrawal for China to intensify its military operations in neighboring Afghanistan, home to groups seeking to attack the Asian country.

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