Chinese military confirms counter-terrorism operations inside Afghanistan

KABUL: Reports of Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan were confirmed by the Chinese military stating “joint counter-terrorism operations” with the Afghan government.

Ren Guoqiang, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army, denied any military involvement in Afghanistan but confirmed that “the law enforcement authorities of the two sides have conducted joint law enforcement operations in border areas to fight against terrorism”, according to an official transcript of the remarks.

Col Guoqiang’s statement was in response to recent reports and photos appearing to show Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan.

The story first broke when Wion, an Indian news website, reported the presence of Chinese military vehicles in the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan.

In February, the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, a think-tank, published a report citing “overwhelming evidence” including statements of diplomats, as well as an unnamed Chinese official, that Chinese troops were patrolling inside Afghanistan, though the article also cited a denial by Sediq Sediqi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s ministry of internal affairs.

The published photos of the alleged patrols showed two types of Chinese vehicles — the Dongfeng EQ 2050, similar to the US Humvee, and the Norinco VP 11, a mine resistant vehicle. Both are military vehicles..

The motivations for China to deepen its involvement in Afghanistan are several. Beijing fears contagion from Islamic extremism, while Chinese companies also hold key mining and hydrocarbons concessions across Afghanistan.

Andrew Small, an expert on China at the German Marshall Fund

“China’s main focus is counter-terrorism,” said Andrew Small, an expert on China at the German Marshall Fund. He added that the Turkistan Islamic Party, a separatist organisation that China has linked to terror attacks, was believed to have its headquarters in Badakhshan, the Afghan province neighbouring China.