February 2, 2018
China has been in talks with neighboring Afghanistan to help build a military base there, amid concerns about militants slipping into Chinese territory from the war-torn country, Afghan officials say.
The military camp is to be constructed in northeast Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous Wakhan Corridor, where witnesses have reported seeing Chinese and Afghan soldiers carrying out joint patrols, AFP reported on Friday.
The report cited the Afghan Defense Ministry’s deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh as saying that officials from Beijing and Kabul had discussed the plan during talks in December last year in the Chinese capital but added that details were still being worked out.
“We are going to build it (the base) but the Chinese government has committed to helping the division financially, providing equipment, and training the Afghan soldiers,” Radmanesh said.
In response to inquiries about the reported plan, a senior Chinese Embassy official in Kabul would only state that Beijing was involved in “capacity-building” in Afghanistan.
The freezing, barren panhandle of land bordering China’s Xinjiang region is so separated from the rest of Afghanistan, the report said, “that many inhabitants are unaware of the Afghan conflict, scraping out harsh but peaceful lives” and retaining “strong links” with their neighbors in Xinjiang.
China’s involvement in constructing the Afghan military base comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks to expand Beijing’s regional economic and geopolitical clout.
China is investing in the building of infrastructure in South Asia and may be seeking to provide security for its trade interests by engaging in the measures in flashpoint Afghanistan.
Reports have already said that the Daesh terrorist group, which has lost territory in the Middle East, is expanding its foothold in Afghanistan. That could pose a security threat to China’s economic interests.
The NATO’s US-led Resolute Support military mission in Afghanistan declined to comment on the report about the base in Wakhan Corridor.