Sun, 26 Sep 2021

Kabul [Afghanistan], September 8 (ANI): China is eyeing the former US airbase of Bagram in Afghanistan in order to expand its influence in the region and embarrass America.

Paul D Shinkman, writing in US News said that China has secured friendly relations with the new Taliban government in Afghanistan and is now considering new ways to expand influence and embarrass the US.

China is considering deploying military personnel and economic development officials to Bagram airfield, perhaps the single-most prominent symbol of the 20-year US military presence in Afghanistan.

The Chinese military is currently conducting a feasibility study about the effect of sending workers, soldiers and other staff related to its foreign economic investment program known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the coming years to Bagram, according to a source briefed on the study by Chinese military officials, who spoke to US News on the condition of anonymity, said Shinkman.

Beijing has already recognized the geostrategic importance of Bagram overtly. Its state media almost immediately hopped on the sudden and surprise U.S. departure from the key logistics hub in July, sending a video crew, which gained easy access to it, to document the aftermath of what it described as a "hasty withdrawal" and "humiliating defeat."China's latest consideration matches well-worn practices it has perfected in recent years to quietly expand its economic and military influence beyond its borders under the guise of infrastructure investment projects.

The current consideration in Beijing is not for any pending movements, rather a potential deployment as long as two years from now, the source says.

And it would not encompass taking over the base but rather sending personnel and supplies at the invitation of the government in Kabul - and certainly, after the Taliban secures its rule.

In addition to expanding its regional influence, Beijing's potential plan for Bagram would also amount to a devastating blow to the image of the US, which increasingly considers China its most pressing and challenging global threat, said Shinkman.

Earlier also China's military, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly secured exclusive rights to roughly a third of the Ream Naval Base in Cambodia in recent years through an expansion there it's backed.

In Myanmar, it has provided radio, radar and other military equipment to the local junta on the Coco Islands, an archipelago roughly 250 miles south of Yangon where China has reportedly held leasing rights for the last three decades.

It has employed similar tactics in neighbouring Pakistan, with which it has bolstered new security and intelligence-sharing arrangement in recent years, as first reported by US News.

The Taliban's revelation on Tuesday that its newly formed government will include as interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, the scion of the notorious Pakistan-based Haqqani Network terrorist group for whom the FBI is offering a USD 10 million rewards, has further bolstered Islamabad's position as a conduit between China and its ambitions in Afghanistan.

China likely could achieve its latest ambitions for Bagram through help from Pakistan, Yun Sun, Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center think tank, said "But if feasible, I am sure they would like to cut out the middleman." (ANI)

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