China is now backtracking and denying that it wants to build a military base in Badakhshan, even though Afghan officials have come out and said that is simply not true, and that there are agreed-upon plans to build the base.
In early January, it was reported that China had intentions to build a military base in Badakhshan, the strategic panhandle region of Afghanistan that borders both China and Tajikistan.
In a meeting with the Chinese Ministry of Defense in Beijing, officials stated that the purpose of the base was to “deepen pragmatic cooperation in various fields, including anti-terrorism operations” and to “push forward state and military relations” between the countries.
But now, China is formally denying all reports that such a military base is being built, even though Afghan officials are on record stating that those plans are still in motion.
Late last month during a regular news briefing, Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesman Wu Qian outright denied all claims that China had plans to construct any sort of permanent facility in the region, stating that “the so-called issue that China is building a military base in Afghanistan in groundless.”
In response to that statement, Afghan officials not only denounced Qian’s denials, but also outlined more information about the negotiations between China and Afghanistan.
Afghan Gen. Davlat Waziri said: “As a representative of the Afghanistan Defense Ministry I again say: we and the Chinese Defense Ministry are conducting negotiations and an agreement has been reached about the construction of a military base of the Afghanistan Defense Ministry for mountain infantry in the northern province of Badakhshan. However, I can’t say when the construction of the base will begin.”
Another Afghan official, Muhammad Radmanish, had a similar statement: “China itself proposed construction of a mountain infantry base in this region and to take on all the expenses.”
It has also been reported by Fergana that Chinese soldiers visit areas of Badakhshan “two or three times” a month.
“They stay in the school building and sometimes give children candy and bread, but never engage in conversation,” an unnamed Badakhshan official stated. “The Chinese soldiers enter Afghanistan territory through neighboring Tajikistan because there’s no direct road from China.”
These claims were confirmed by reporters from AFP who had visited the region in October. “The Chinese army first came here last summer and they were accompanied by the Afghan army,” said Kyrgyz chief Abdul Rashid.
While Chinese military presence in the region has certainly increased in recent months, it remains to be seen whether or not any sort of military base will materialize.
Nonetheless, China has steadily increased involvement in security along its western border, with one security official expressing concern that “Chinese Uighurs among the terrorists’ ranks can cross into Chinese territory through Afghanistan.”