China to 'prop up Taliban' in Afghanistan to seize power in Middle East as US & NATO retreat after 20 year 'forever' war

China to 'prop up Taliban' in Afghanistan to seize power in Middle East as US & NATO retreat after 20 year 'forever' war

CHINA could join forces with the Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan to seize power in the Middle East as US and NATO troops back down after 20 years of bloodshed, experts have said.

Beijing has been waiting in the wings for the right moment to pounce on a trade deal with Kabul by extending its $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor into Afghanistan as part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

Afghanistan has been engulfed by violence since the late 1970s, destroying its infrastructure and economy – but the nation's security is vital for China's global domination under the BRI, which will span 60 countries.

Multiple players are circling to take advantage of the power vacuum and the country faces an uncertain future with Taliban attacks rampant and the threat of civil war looming.

It means China wants to assert its dominance in Afghanistan to maintain political stability in the region – and expand its economic interests, Robert Clark, from the Henry Jackson Society, said.

"China has economic interests in Afghan, it is a huge mineral deposit base with zinc and cobalt needed for microchips and under US sanctions China is forced to produce their own microchips," Clark told The Sun Online.

"China is a silent partner. China would also be worried that terror groups could threaten their security." 


Muscling in on Afghanistan would give Beijing a strategic foothold in the region with the country acting as a crucial trading hub connecting the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe, boosting China's influence across the world at an estimated cost of $4 trillion.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed Beijing wants to "substantially" expand its BRI projects into the shattered country and "deepen the dialogue mechanism" between the nations.

A lack of infrastructure and an abundance of natural resources makes Afghanistan a lucrative target of Chinese investment – but it also involves risks.

Taliban forces have unleashed a reign of terror in recent weeks and seized control of a third of the country after the last of the American troops left.

Hundreds of Afghan soldiers have already fled across the border into neighbouring Tajikistan as the terror group sweeps through the country and leaves it on the verge of collapse.

China has already strategically built the Taxkorgan airport on Pamirs Plateau in the northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – which borders Afghanistan.

Ashok Swain, professor of peace and conflict research at Sweden's Uppsala University, told The Sun Online: "China is fast becoming a major power player in the Middle East.

"The US troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan allows China to influence Afghanistan policy in the years to come."

But Michael Kugelman, an expert in South Asian affairs, said China's ambitious expansion into Afghanistan will depend on its relationship with the Taliban.

"It will depend in great part on whether China reaches an understanding with the Taliban, which will see its influence continue to grow whether it holds power or not," he told the Daily Beast.

"If the Taliban is okay with China building out infrastructure and other projects in Afghanistan, Beijing will be in a much better place.

"China could well bring the Taliban on board with BRI.

"The insurgents have said they will support development projects if they serve Afghan national interests."

The Taliban offers a "more unified partner" to China, a source told the publication.

But Kugelman warned: "China will still face an extremely insecure environment, even if it gets Taliban buy-in for its projects."

Colonel Richard Kemp, 62, who was sent to Kabul in 2003 to take command of British Forces, said the outlook for Afghanistan was "bleak" – and said there would be "severe implications for the West" too.

He told The Sun Online: "Countries will see the US withdrawal as the West abandoning them when times were hard, and it will embolden countries like Russia and China as it’s seen as sign of weakness from the US. 

"China is trying to increase its influence everywhere in the world – and the US withdrawal will open the gates for China to work with the Taliban."

He warned: "It will be portrayed as a defeat of the US and embolden jihadists, leading the more attacks on the West."

China will still face an extremely insecure environment, even if it gets Taliban buy-in for its projects."

And Pakistan – one of Beijing’s strongest allies – could prove a trump card for China in the expansion into Afghanistan.

Sudha Ramachandran, an analyst on South Asian political and security issues, said China could "achieve more success than the US in Afghanistan given its close ties with and enormous leverage" over Pakistan – one of Beijing’s strongest allies.

"China wants to ensure that instability in Afghanistan does not impact BRI adversely, and it wants to push Afghanistan to join CPEC or BRI," Ramachandran told the Daily Beast.

An Indian government official said China could work with the Taliban "at the request of Pakistan".

"We can vouch that China will fund the rebuilding of Afghanistan through the Taliban via Pakistan," the source the Financial Times. "China is Pakistan’s wallet. China at the request of Pakistan will support the Taliban."

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said it sees China as a "welcome friend" and is hoping to talk to Beijing about investing in reconstruction work "as soon as possible", South China Morning Post reports.

But Fan Hongda, professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of the Shanghai International Studies University, warned Afghanistan could become a "hotbed for growing Islamic extremism".

"Even though China has for a long time been extremely cautious about sending military forces overseas, if it is supported by a United Nations resolution, China might join an international peacekeeping team to enter Afghanistan," he told the Financial Times.

"With continued turbulence, Afghanistan could easily become a hotbed for growing Islamic extremism, which would to some extent affect stability in Xinjiang."

But Professor Anthony Glees, from the University of Buckingham, believes China will stay out of Afghanistan and just "watch very carefully".

He told The Sun Online: "I think both Russia and China will do absolutely nothing, they will stay out of the place, although they will watch very carefully indeed for any interference by the Taliban forces in their own Muslim areas. 

"The more the Taliban are left to their own devices, the more they can hone their forces and their fellow Islamist 'students' in the West."

20 years in Afghanistan – what happened?

US forces have begun a full withdrawal from Afghanistan under the orders of US President Joe Biden after spending 20 years fighting to stablise the war-torn nation.

US forces have begun a full withdrawal from Afghanistan under the orders of US President Joe Biden after spending 20 years fighting to stablise the war-torn nation.

Some 456 British soldiers and 2,420 Americans – along with hundreds of other coalition troops – died during the war which was sparked by the September 11 attacks.

And the civilian casualties are estimated to have been almost 50,000.

Codenamed Operation Enduring Freedom, the US led an invasion off Afghanistan to oust the Taliban after al-Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Centre and other US buildings in 2001.

The mission was to oust the Taliban, who were said to be harbouring terrorists and providing them a safe haven – including Osama bin Laden.

What followed was nearly 20 years of grinding conflict as the US, its allies, and the Afghan security forces staged a grinding campaign to attempt to rebuild the country and beat back the Taliban.

The Taliban had ruled most of Afghanistan following the Afghan Civil War in the 90s – sparked by the withdrawal of the Soviet Union.

Western nations had actually supported the Taliban in the 80s as the ran an insurgency against the Soviet backed regime of Mohammad Najibullah.

However, after seizing power in 1996 – the Taliban brutally ruled Afghanistan and offered a safe haven to terrorist killers like Osama.

As the US war rolled on into the 2010s, Bin Laden was killed in May, 2011, in a US special forces raid in Abbotabad, Pakistan.

And since then there has been a slow withdrawal, with British troops officially ending combat operations in October 2014.

February 2020 saw a peace deal signed between the US and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, which agreed to a withdrawal – whoever the Afghan government criticised it as being done behind "closed doors".

Taliban forces have since continued their operations and have been gaining ground – and the US continues to pull back its troops.

The war is seen as defeating the Taliban and improving the lives of the Afghan people who were once living under strict Islamic law and who now have free elections.

However, for some it is unfinished job which was mishandled – and that may 20 years on simply see a return to the dominance of the Taliban as they did pre-9/11.

And Kugelman said China's capacity to fill the vacuum left by the United States "shouldn't be overstated".

"There will certainly be a vacuum to fill, but we shouldn't overstate China's capacity to fill it," he told the Daily Beast.

"With Afghanistan's security situation sure to spiral out of control, there's only so much China will be able to do to deepen its footprint."

Experts have also warned that other countries in the region will seek to assert their dominance in Afghanistan.


Russia will also look to exploit its current presence in the country, Clark warned.

And Nilofar Sakhi, lecturer in International Affairs at the George Washington University, said China, Russia and Iran will use Afghanistan "as a battlefield for their strategic competition with the United States".

It comes as Russian military helicopters based in Tajikistan fired air-to-surface missiles during a training exercise on Tuesday as Moscow said its forces were ready to help secure the border with Afghanistan.

President Vladimir Putin told Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon that the nation will help with the fallout from NATO's exit from neighbouring Afghanistan if necessary.

The military exercise simulated an attack on illegal armed groups along with a convoy of cars, enemy firepoints and arms caches.

And tensions are mounting after a Taliban spokesperson said it will treat NATO and US forces as "invaders" if they fail to leave Afghanistan by September.

Suhail Shaheen promised the Taliban "would react" if troops are left in the country after the withdrawal, hours after the terror group seized control of nine districts.

The jihadis are now preparing to move on the capital Kabul after Afghan troops surrendered and retreated.

"The Taliban for now seem to be convinced they can take power forcefully," political analyst Ramish Salehi said.

"This is a fight that will determine… whether democracy will prevail against ideological forces."

    Source: Read Full Article