Former Trump UN Envoy Haley Fears China Poised to Take Over Afghanistan’s Strategic Bagram Air Base
10:36 GMT 04.09.2021 (Updated: 11:15 GMT 04.09.2021)
© AP Photo / Rahmat GulAn Afghan army soldier walks past Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, MRAP, that were left after the American military left Bagram air base, in Parwan province north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, 5 July 2021.
© AP Photo / Rahmat Gul
US and Indian officials and media have expressed concerns that China may step into the void left by Washington following America’s dramatic pullout from Afghanistan and the collapse of the Kabul government. China is reportedly interested in exploiting the up to $3 trillion in mineral wealth trapped under the war-torn country’s soil.
Donald Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations has expressed fears that the People’s Republic of China may move in and take Bagram Air Base, the strategic military facility which once served as the nucleus of the US occupation of Afghanistan.
“We need to watch China because I think you’re going to see China make a move for Bagram Air Force Base [sic], and I think they’re also making a move in Afghanistan and trying to use Pakistan to get stronger to go against India,” Haley said, speaking to Fox News.
She did not specify how China might “make a move” for Bagram. While the PRC has continued to maintain a diplomatic presence on the ground in Afghanistan in the wake of the Kabul government’s collapse, it is not known to have any military forces there.
Haley, who resigned as ambassador to the UN in late 2018, ostensibly over disagreements with Trump on Russia sanctions policy, expressed fears in her Fox interview that along with terrorist groups, Moscow might be emboldened in the wake of the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“We need to make sure that we are going on an antiterrorist effort across the world because we are now going to see with this moral victory that the jihadists had – you’re going to see a heavy recruitment campaign around the world…We need to make sure our cybersecurity is strong because actors like Russia are gonna continue to hack us, because we show no signs of willing to fight back,” Haley said.
The United States has spent years accusing Russia of engaging in malicious hack attacks against the US government, private companies and even election infrastructure, but has yet to offer any conclusive evidence in any of these instances. Last month, a Sputnik investigation discovered that the US Central Intelligence Agency has the technical capabilities to spoof cyberattacks and make them look like they’re being staged from anywhere in the world.
Bagram’s Evacuation and China’s Interests in Afghanistan
The United States evacuated Bagram Air Base – the largest and most strategically significant US base in Afghanistan, situated about 60 km from Kabul, in July, amid the broader evacuation from the country which began in May under President Biden’s orders. At the height of the US occupation of the country, Bagram housed tens of thousands of US and NATO troops, and served as a hub from which forces could be deployed throughout the country. Afghan military officials complained at the time of the withdrawal that the US retreat was carried out in secret, in the middle of the night, and that looters were allowed to scavenge the facilities before Afghan troops could take control.
In the wake of the Western military and diplomatic withdrawal from Afghanistan, China has urged the international community to “encourage and guide” the war-torn nation “in a positive direction instead of exerting more pressure” in the wake of the Taliban takeover. Beijing has also indicated that it “stands ready” to continue to play an active role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and in humanitarian projects amid the US decision to freeze billions of dollars in Afghan government assets stashed abroad. At the same time, the Chinese foreign ministry has urged the militants to “deal resolutely” with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Xinjiang-based terrorist group which the Taliban has given refuge to on past occasions.
Taliban officials have reciprocated China’s goodwill gestures, with one spokesman recently hailing the PRC as a “great neighbour” and telling the South China Morning Post that Kabul was “ready to exchange views with China on how to forge ahead in terms of boosting our mutual relations.”
Another spokesman told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that China was Kabul’s “most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country.”
1 September 2021, 05:29 GMT
Along with US officials, observers in India, including former minister of home affairs P. Chidambaram, have recently expressed concerns about the possibility of the formation of a ‘China-Pakistan-Taliban Afghanistan strategic axis’. India had been one of the Western-backed Afghan government’s key supporters prior to its collapse, and was one of the last countries in the region to hold diplomatic talks with the Taliban in the wake of Kabul’s collapse.
In addition to its ambitious New Silk Road transport infrastructure initiative, China has expressed interest in Afghanistan over its energy riches, including the up to $3 trillion in mineral wealth, including vast gold deposits, and rare earth metals including lithium, which can be used in batteries for electric vehicles, thought to be trapped under the country’s soil.