News You Really Need To See: “Exploring a New Role: Peacemaker in Afghanistan”

“Exploring a New Role: Peacemaker in Afghanistan”

The New York Times, Jan. 14, 2015, p.A4

No stranger to engaging in power politics with its Asian neighbors, China’s diplomatic corps has in recent months been trying on a new role: talking with the Afghan Taliban in an effort to play peacemaker.  Late last year, two Afghan Taliban officials traveled with Pakistani officials to Beijing to discuss a potential peace process among Afghanistan’s warring parties, according to three current and former Afghan officials.  And that may not have been the first such meeting. … Despite years of war and turmoil in Afghanistan, China had long seemed reluctant to become directly involved.  So what has changed to move it to try to mediate with Islamist militants now?  According to Chinese and foreign analysts, the answer lies in three factors: China’s growing worries about a Uighur uprising on its own frontier; concern about more instability on its western border after the main American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan; and urgency to secure access to Afghan mineral and oil deposits where Chinese companies have already made large investments. … [China’s President] Xi [Jinping] has emphasized the importance of neighborhood diplomacy for China and is now promoting his country’s broad infrastructure and trade investments in what he calls a Silk Road Economic Belt across Central Asia.  China’s main investments in Afghanistan are the Aynak copper mine, which the state-run China Metallurgical Group Corporation has been trying to develop for years, and oil fields in the Amu Darya basin. … There are signs that Uighur militants have been making use of training bases in the Pakistani tribal belt.  In November, Afghan and Western officials said in interviews that the Afghan intelligence agency had shown China evidence that dozens of militant Uighurs caught inside Afghanistan in the past year had been trained in camps in Pakistan.”

Quickie analysis:  Britain, the Soviet Union, the US.  It is only fitting that China now tries its hand at involvement in Afghan politics.

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