U.S. Sees Critical Role for China on Afghanistan Security

The U.S. sees China playing a “valuable role” in providing security assistance in Afghanistan as foreign troops start withdrawing from the country, a State Department official said.

“China is a critical player in this region and has an important role to play in ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the official said today by phone from Beijing, where he will attend a meeting of the Istanbul Process on economic and security matters in Afghanistan. The official asked not to be identified in line with protocol.

The U.S. welcomes China’s “leadership role” in hosting the meeting, a regional platform established in 2011 to encourage cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors, he said. Chinese premier Li Keqiang and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will preside over the conference, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China’s economic role in helping reconstruct the country is important and it has a great amount to offer, the official said. It can also help with security assistance and the reconciliation process, he said.

Afghanistan is seeking stability as the U.S. reduces the number of troops in the country over the next few years to a small number of military training personnel and counter-terrorism forces. China is poised to play a larger role in Afghanistan, long seen as primarily a U.S. responsibility after its 2001 invasion. The two countries share a 91-kilometer (57-mile) mountainous border near Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Deeper Cooperation

The past five years have seen “an increased convergence of interest” between the U.S. and China in their cooperation on Afghanistan, which officials in Washington describe as a “positive part” of Sino-U.S. relations. The cooperation has become “broader and deeper,” and the discussions have included a range of security-related issues, such as China providing additional support to the Afghan National Security Forces.

The involvement of the People’s Liberation Army in providing additional support is something to be discussed between the Afghan and Chinese government, the senior official added.

The new Afghan president Ghani chose China for his first state visit after he took office last month. Chinese President Xi Jinping called the former World Bank economist, who used to travel to China frequently, an “old friend” and said at their summit on Tuesday it marked a new era in ties between two countries.

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