China is building military bases and observation points on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Beijing wants to control the threat of the more extremist Afghan guerrillas. In an unspecified location, not far from the Wakhan Corridor in Badakhshan province, the Chinese are showing ambitions to control the region, also by training Tajik forces.
The Chinese military is most likely positioned near an old Soviet outpost (see photo 2), where they have actually been present for a few years now, to monitor this strategic mountainous area. Observation towers and other defensive structures have been elevated. The Chinese and Tajik governments deny the presence of the Beijing contingent, but local correspondents of Radio Azattyk have taken some photos of the heavily developed complex in recent months.
From conversations with several past and present members of the power structures in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, as well as local residents, Azattyk‘s journalists and analysts made an estimate of Chinese military strength. Beijing’s total number of soldiers is growing by leaps and bounds with the justification of ensuring security in the region. China developed the military project based on the contentious relations between the Tajik government and the Taliban.
Beijing’s primary concern remains the control of Uyghur fighters in Afghanistan, who are accused of attempted attacks in Xinjiang. Interviewed by Azattyk, Haiyun Ma, a professor at the US University of Frostburg, notes that “the situation in Afghanistan is rather slippery for the Chinese, given the relations between the Taliban and Uyghur terrorists, yet Beijing must try to cooperate with the Kabul regime.”
Residents on the Tajik side of the Wakhan Corridor tell of military drones constantly flying over the area, and various other surveillance technologies scattered throughout the territory. Two anonymous interviewees said that they had visited the military facility several times before the Taliban takeover, and had seen Chinese personnel working together with Tajiks and Afghans: they exchanged information on both sides of the border. Now this balance has been broken, as another anonymous source in the Dushanbe government confirms.
The Afghans (Taliban) are no longer part of the negotiations with the Chinese and Tajik military, which used to take place on average every two months. Relying on Afghan and Tajik military sources, Azattyk wrote in early October that the Taliban had driven Uyghur extremists out of Afghanistan, which shares a 76-kilometer border with China.
These would be the extremists of the “Islamic Party of Turkestan,” sworn enemies of Beijing. They were already active in Taliban Afghanistan in the 1990s, and relations have never been interrupted since. Removing them from the hottest areas does not, after all, entail handing them over to the Chinese, and too much pressure in this direction could have disastrous consequences, leading the Uyghurs to weld with the remnants of Isis scattered throughout the region.
The Wakhan corridor, squeezed between Tajikistan and Pakistan up to the Chinese borders, is the real nerve center of all possible military and economic developments, and China is interested in reclaiming it as a transit point for the new Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative).
The Russians ceded control of the area to the Chinese years ago, but they remain vigilant with their active forces in Tajikistan: about 7,000 men around the capital Dushanbe. Not only is control of Afghanistan at stake, but of the whole of Asia, in the confrontation between the great world powers.
Source: Asia News