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China eyes US airbase of Bagram in Afghanistan airfield to expand influence

11:31 PM Sep 08, 2021 | FPJ Bureau

Kabul: China is eyeing the former US airbase of Bagram in Afghanistan to expand its influence in the region and embarrass America. This is in keeping with its well-worn practices in recent years to quietly expand its economic and military influence beyond its borders under the guise of infrastructure investment projects.

It is, therefore, considering sending military personnel and economic development officials to Bagram Airfield, one of the most potent symbols of American military during the 20-year war. Ostensibly, these soldiers and workers will be sent as part of its 'Belt and Road Initiative.'

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China, through a foreign ministry spokesperson, issued a denial. ‘’What I can tell everyone is, that this is a piece of purely false information,’’ Wang Wenbin told reporters. However, Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center think tank, believes China may not be sincere in its denial and is very interested in that land. ‘’Given their past experience, the Chinese must be eager to get their hands on whatever the U.S. has left at the base,'’ says the director.

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US forces in Afghanistan abandoned their base at Bagram airport overnight in July - shutting off the lights and slipping away into the night without telling government forces who were supposed to take it over, an online report said.

Interestingly, while Western nations were evacuating their embassies, the Chinese mission kept operating. Their security guards simply changed from Afghan government security forces to Taliban gunmen.

A Taliban spokesman told an Italian newspaper that Afghanistan's new rulers will rely primarily on financing from China as it seeks to fend off a looming humanitarian crisis and begin reconstruction.

He also praised the New Silk Road – part of the Belt and Road Initiative that China is using to open up trade routes – and said Beijing investment could help reopen copper mines.

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 a similar fashion.

China 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."

$ 31 MN CHINA AID

China announced on Wednesday that it would donate 200 million yuan (US$31 million) worth of aid, including grains, winter supplies and coronavirus vaccines to Afghanistan, a day after the Taliban announced the formation of an interim government in Kabul.

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