As bombing in Northern Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province dials in on a little known terror group called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), U.S. officials are eyeing a potential partnership with China.
ETIM operates near the Afghan border with China and Tajikistan, and has been highlighted as a security concern by the Chinese government.
In a series of U.S. airstrikes, Taliban training camps and fighting positions that supported terrorist operations inside Afghanistan, as well as ETIM operations across the border, were destroyed, according to a press statement from NATO’s Resolute Support mission.
“The U.S. strikes support Afghanistan in reassuring its neighbors that it is not a safe sanctuary for terrorists who want to carry out cross border operations,” the statement read.
The ETIM terrorist organization has roots in the ethnic Uighur separatist groups of western China.
The group’s “militants have fought alongside al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, and are responsible for various terrorist acts inside and outside China,” according to Resolute Support. “In May 2002, two ETIM members were deported to China from Kyrgyzstan for plotting to attack the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan.”
Resolute Support added that the terror group poses a threat to China and enjoys support from the Taliban in Badakhshan province, and throughout the border region.
On Tuesday, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee fired questions about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan at Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
“I think there is the possibility that China, on the counter-terrorism front, could be a partner,” Schriver said. “They certainly have their own concerns about terrorism within China, and the potential for linkages between terrorist groups operating elsewhere and for that to seep into China.”
“Historically, we have run into some difficulties — what they define as a terrorist, particularly inside China and the way we look at things, there’s an important difference there — but they do have an interest in stability in Afghanistan,” he added.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer