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Afghan's last hope


IT looks like China is the latest country to be getting involved in the affairs of the Middle East.

In particular, it is investing heavily in military and development aid in Afghanistan, especially in the northeastern Badakhshan province, with a view to gaining access to Afghan mineral and oil deposits valued by the US Geological Survey at up to a trillion dollars. These investments are part of Beijing’s $900 billion “Belt and Road” strategy to bind Asia’s new superpower to the rest of the continent with large-scale infrastructure projects at its own expense.

This makes people in the West nervous, but there is nothing wrong with building bridges in impoverished countries.

Afghan diplomatic sources in Beijing say construction has begun on a military base in the Wakhan corridor and that up to a battalion of Chinese troops could be sent there. That would make Afghanistan one of a tiny number of countries to host Nato and Chinese troops at the same time. Another is Djibouti in the horn of Africa. Beijing admitted last year to establishing a military presence there, although it insists that the purpose is to protect commercial and humanitarian operations.

In Afghanistan, China has the additional pretext of pursuing Uighurs whom it accused of terrorism. Could China be the Afghans’ last hope? While such activity is bound to raise suspicions in the West about China’s intentions, the fact is that previous Western intervention in Afghanistan has been disastrous for the country.

Perhaps China can succeed where the West failed.