Beijing plans to help build and support a new military base in Afghanistan to protect China’s economic interests and local border security from militants, according to Agence France-Presse.

The installation will be built in the Wakhan Corridor, the eastern panhandle of the country, a remote and mountainous area bordering China’s Xinjiang region.

“We are going to build it but the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers,” Afghan Defense Ministry Deputy Spokesman Mohammed Radmanesh told AFP.

While the Wakhan Corridor is relatively cut off from the rest of Afghanistan and the violent conflict affecting much of the country, Beijing worries that Islamic State militants fleeing Iraq and Syria could enter China through Wakhan, or cross Central Asia and Xinjiang to reach Afghanistan.

It also worries that exiled Uighur members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement are crossing into Xinjiang from Wakhan to carry out attacks.

Kabul is interested in seeing Beijing use its “special relationship” with Islamabad to encourage the Pakistani military to “force the Taliban into peace talks,” said Andrew Small, author of The China-Pakistan Axis, according to AFP.

Military Times reported last year that Chinese troops appeared to be operating in Afghanistan. Members of the local Kyrgyz ethnic minority also claim to have seen Chinese and Afghan troops on joint patrols last year, but Chinese and Afghan officials both deny the claims, according to AFP.

The army base demonstrates Chinese President Xi Jinping’s goal to extend China’s economic and geopolitical strength both regionally and globally. Last July, China officially opened its first overseas Army base and sent members of it’s People’s Liberation Army to Djibouti.

Chinese ground soldiers appeared to already be operating in Afghanistan last year, according to a 2017 Military Times article. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.
Chinese ground soldiers appeared to already be operating in Afghanistan last year, according to a 2017 Military Times article. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.