“China’s Uighur Unrest Is Opportunity for Afghans”
The New York Times, November 6, 2014, p.A3
“Since the British first tried and failed to subdue Afghanistan in the 19th century, stumbling into a costly Afghan war seems to have become a mandatory step for global power players. The Soviet Union did it in the 1980s, and the American battle here has passed the 13-year mark. Now, China seems to be taking its turn in coming to grips with Afghanistan’s role in its national security. No one expects China to be sending troops any time soon, even with the United States and NATO pulling out the last of their combat forces at year’s end. But China has taken a major step in formalizing closer relations with the Afghan government: Last week, it said it planned to provide billions of dollars in new economic and security assistance. … A major factor in China’s stepped-up involvement with Afghanistan is a growing alarm in Beijing over Islamist militancy among Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group from northwestern China, analysts say. Since 2001, a smattering of Uighur militants have fought in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And Chinese officials blame a Uighur separatist group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, for a spate of attacks that have killed hundreds of people in China over the past two years. Some experts say Chinese fears that the Uighur separatist cause might spread widely among other militant groups are overblown. But where some see unfounded fears, the Afghans have sensed an opportunity to secure a new, rich benefactor. Further, interviews with Afghan officials suggest that they also hope to use the presence of Uighur militants here to drive a wedge between China and Pakistan, which has aided and sheltered the Taliban in the past and is a longstanding ally of Beijing.”
Quickie Analysis: Afghanistan has always been very good at playing off bigger powers for its own benefit. China can get in line.