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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, May 16, 2016 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

What’s Behind China’s Growing Security Presence in Afghanistan?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Recent reports of Chinese security forces operating in Afghanistan have prompted speculation about whether China has crossed another important threshold in its policy and posture on overseas military activity. Claims of sightings of Chinese military vehicles in the Wakhan Corridor, the narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to the Chinese border, have been circulating since late last year. But it was only after a People’s Liberation Army press briefing in February that any activities were officially confirmed.

The PLA spokesperson denied the involvement of the Chinese military proper, stating that it was “the law enforcement departments in China and Afghanistan [that] carried out joint enforcement action to jointly combat terrorism and organized transnational criminal activities.” Nevertheless, this represents a striking development. It would not be the first time that Chinese security forces have been involved in joint operations outside Chinese territory, but it is the only known instance of their doing so specifically for counterterrorism purposes. ...

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