WASHINGTON, DC — The United States and Beijing share a common goal of combating terrorist groups that operate in China’s neighbor Afghanistan, the highest-ranking military officer in the American armed forces indicated Tuesday.
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. President Donald Trump’s South Asia strategy, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford whether he had discussed the ongoing war in Afghanistan with Chinese officials during his recent visit to the Asian country.
“I had a few sidebar conversations on Afghanistan,” responded Gen. Dunford, noting that the trip was primarily focused on the rogue North Korean Regime.
“There are many areas where our interests diverge,” conceded Gen. Dunford, referring to U.S.-China relations, adding:
There are some interest areas where they converge, and I think counterterrorism is one of those areas where our interests converge, particularly in Afghanistan. I’ve certainly suggested to Chinese interlocutors that they can play a more productive role particularly in development and assisting in the counterterrorism effort on the border.
China shares an estimated 50-mile-long border with Afghanistan.
An editorial published by the state-controlled Chinese news outlet Global Times last month noted:
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.
The opinion piece came after U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his regional conditions-based approach to dealing with terrorism in Afghanistan, dubbed the South Asia Strategy.
Breitbart News has learned that the United States is well aware that the Chinese military has carried out operations in Afghanistan, where American troops have been fighting terrorism since October 2001.
The Pentagon suggested that China’s military activity has not interfered with the efforts of American troops.
According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Beijing faces a growing Islamic terrorist threat emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, where the American military believes 20 of the 98 U.S. or United Nations-designated terrorists organizations in the world operate.
Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked Uighurs, or Uyghurs, from China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang province have threatened to attack China.
Nevertheless, China insists on lending support to its ally Pakistan despite U.S. government assertions that Islamabad provides sanctuary to terrorist groups fighting and killing American troops and their allies in Afghanistan, namely the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their ally the Haqqani Network.
Autonomous Xinjiang, China’s largest province, borders Afghanistan and Pakistan-Controlled Kashmir, a disputed region claimed by Beijing, Islamabad, and New Delhi.
According to the Global Times editorial, “the Chinese government has generally looked favorably toward Washington’s latest decision, but disagrees over the Trump administration’s tough stance on Pakistan.”
Under President Trump’s South Asia strategy, which primarily focuses on the conflict in Afghanistan, the U.S. plans to pressure Pakistan into stop harboring jihadists.
China has benefited financially from Afghanistan’s lucrative mineral resources, valued at about $1 trillion, while the United States has invested billions to develop the war-ravaged country.
The Trump administration plans to change that equation and tap into Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reportedly expressed support for having American companies mine rare earth mineral resources in Afghanistan.
Since the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan started, the United States has spent $714 billion on security and reconstruction projects, which are expected to benefit China’s mining operations.
Deteriorating security conditions fueled by the Afghan Taliban and a lack of reliable transportation infrastructure have proven to be hurdles to mining Afghanistan, but China has reportedly reached an agreement with the terrorist group that allows Beijing to mine Afghanistan without worrying about security.
American, Afghan, and Indian officials have accused China’s ally Pakistan of protecting the Afghan Taliban.
The United States is deepening and broadening its military relationship with India in Afghanistan, to the dismay of China and Pakistan, Gen. Dunford told lawmakers, echoing U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis who testified with him.
China and Pakistan consider India to be their regional rival.