CHINA FILLS AFGHAN VAC­UUM

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

As the U.S. mil­i­tary winds down its multi­bil­lion­dol­lar op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan, China’s mil­i­tary has be­gun mov­ing in.

A del­e­ga­tion of se­nior Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials vis­ited Kabul in March and signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing that out­lines plans for $1.6 mil­lion in Chi­nese mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to Afghanistan.

Ac­cord­ing to Kabul na­tional tele­vi­sion, the Chi­nese will pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, lo­gis­tics sup­port and heavy weapons spare parts as a first step in mil­i­tary sup­port.

The Afghan lead­er­ship is said to be crit­i­cal of U.S. plans to send its left­over mil­i­tary hard­ware, worth an es­ti­mated $7 bil­lion, to Pak­istan as part of its with­drawal. The Afghans want the hard­ware for their se­cu­rity forces.

Re­la­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Kabul have been soured by Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai’s re­fusal to sign a bi­lat­eral se­cu­rity agree­ment.

Afghan lead­ers, in­clud­ing De­fense Min­is­ter Bes­mellah Mo­ham­madi, have said the U.S. mil­i­tary equip­ment is needed for Afghanistan’s fight against the Tal­iban in­sur­gency.

The fail­ure to pro­vide the left­over U.S. mil­i­tary goods has been crit­i­cized by Afghan lead­ers who claim it in­di­cates the United States is not com­mit­ted to Afghans’ fu­ture se­cu­rity. The Afghans are said to fear that Pak­istan and ter­ror­ists backed by Is­lam­abad will use the U.S. mil­i­tary gear against them.

Mean­while, Pen­tagon spokesman Navy Adm. John Kirby told re­porters Tues­day that there are no in­di­ca­tions that the U.S. eco­nomic sanc­tions against Rus­sia over its takeover at­tempts in Ukraine will dis­rupt U.S. mil­i­tary sup­ply routes to Afghanistan.

Some 40 per­cent of U.S. mil­i­tary sup­plies tran­sit Rus­sia, mainly by rail cars, on the way to Afghanistan.

“We cer­tainly are not aware of any ma­jor changes to the flow of lo­gis­tics in and out of Afghanistan through the north­ern dis­tri­bu­tion net­work as a re­sult of the ten­sion that’s in Ukraine,” Adm. Kirby said.

How­ever, he added: “It’s some­thing we’re mon­i­tor­ing very, very closely, as you would ex­pect that we would, es­pe­cially as we con­tinue to with­draw troops from Afghanistan, but there’s no changes that I’m aware of.”

Con­tact Bill Gertz at @Bil­lGertz.

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