April 21, 2016
China says it wants to forge strong military ties with Afghanistan which is under a US-led occupation.
Beijing is willing to “deepen counter-terrorism intelligence, joint drills, personnel training and other areas of practical cooperation,” China’s Defense Ministry said late on Wednesday.
The remarks were made by Fang Fenghui, a member of the powerful Central Military Commission which controls China’s armed forces, in his meeting with Afghan president’s national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar in Beijing.
The US-led mission ceased combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and has withdrawn most of its forces. China says it does not seek to fill a void left by their withdrawal.
But, it has promised to play a “huge” commercial role in helping rebuild the country, where the Taliban seek to re-establish their regime.
China’s vice president last year pledged infrastructure and security support for Afghanistan, signing several deals during a rare high-level Chinese visit to Kabul.
The official Xinhua news agency said Atmar also met China’s domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu and discussed counter-terrorism.
Meng stressed the need for closer Sino-Afghan cooperation so as to jointly safeguard the security and stability of the two countries and the region, it said.
Atmar, for his part, said Afghanistan attaches great importance to enhanced ties with China, and is interested in having greater cooperation in law enforcement.
China’s willingness to expand military cooperation with Afghanistan comes at a time when the Taliban militant group has announced the start of its annual spring offensive against Afghan security forces and US-led foreign forces.
China is working with Pakistan and the US to broker peace talks to end the Taliban insurgency that has raged for 15 years in Afghanistan, but last month the militants refused to take part.
Beijing is worried about the prospect of militants from its restive far western region of Xinjiang getting support from the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asia.
China is equally nervous about the US establishing a foothold on its borders which has found traction as part of President Barack Obama’s “strategic pivot.”
Under the plan, the US is reorienting significant elements of its foreign policy towards the Asia Pacific region and encouraging many of its partners outside the region to do the same.
US policymakers believe the lion’s share of the political and economic history of the 21st century will be written in the Asia-Pacific region.