Beijing denies plan to build military base in Afghanistan

BEIJING/KABUL: China’s Defence Ministry on Thursday denied that it was planning to build a military base in Afghanistan, branding such reports “groundless”.
Russian news agency Ferghana News, which focuses on Central Asia, has reported that China will build the base in northern Afghanistan.
The report was picked up last week by US magazine The Diplomat and then in Chinese state media.
Speaking at a regular news briefing, ministry spokesman Wu Qian said that the two countries had normal security cooperation and that China like other countries was supporting Afghanistan in defence and counter-terrorism.
“The so-called issue that China is building a military base in Afghanistan is groundless,” Wu said.
The ministry has also previously dismissed reports that Chinese military vehicles were patrolling inside Afghanistan.
China has long been concerned that instability in Afghanistan could spill over into the violence-prone Xinjiang region in China’s far west, home to Uighur people, where hundreds of people have died in recent years in unrest blamed by China on IS.
China has also worked with Pakistan and the United States to broker peace talks to end Afghanistan’s Taleban insurgency that has raged since the militants were ousted by US-backed forces in 2001.
China opened its first overseas military base, in the Horn of Africa country Djibouti, last year.
China has previously denied having plans for other overseas bases, but the United States expects China to build more, with Pakistan a likely location.
Gov quits as security worsens
The governor of the western Afghan province of Farah resigned on Thursday after months of mounting insecurity that have fuelled protests by residents fearful that the Taleban could threaten the provincial capital.
Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan blamed political interference and corruption among security forces in the province, on the frontier with Iran in the far west of the country.
“I have resigned from my post because of the worsening security situation in Farah,” he told reporters, adding that there had been “interference in my responsibilities from various individuals”.
Although Afghan and US military commanders have expressed growing optimism about battlefield successes
against the Taleban, backed by increased American air strikes, the problems in Farah show how unstable security remains in many areas.
Farah, one of the poorest provinces in Afghanistan, has seen months of fighting and accusations of collusion between some units in the police and the Taleban, fuelled by cross-border smuggling and drug trafficking.
Jahan’s resignation underscored how President Ashraf Ghani’s government, currently engaged in an unrelated standoff with the powerful governor of Balkh province in the north, has struggled to maintain control in many areas outside the capital Kabul.
— Reuters