China Criticized the Afghan War. Now It Worries About the Withdrawal.

The Chinese authorities hardly ever passes up an opportunity to accuse the United States of navy adventurism and hegemony. In the case of Afghanistan, although, it has modified its tone, warning that Washington now bears the duty for the hasty finish to its two-decade conflict there.

“The United States, which created the Afghan issue in the first place, should act responsibly to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan,” China’s overseas minister, Wang Yi, mentioned this month at a discussion board in Beijing. “It should not simply shift the burden onto others and withdraw from the country with the mess left behind unattended.”

While China has not referred to as on President Biden to reverse the navy withdrawal he ordered, statements by senior officers made it clear that they might blame the United States for any insecurity that spreads in the area.

China’s chief, Xi Jinping, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — neither of them shut buddies of the American president — raised issues about the withdrawal in a phone name on June 29, citing “the increasingly complicated and severe security situation,” in keeping with the state information company Xinhua.

An explosion and automobile crash that killed 9 Chinese staff in Pakistan on Wednesday has punctuated China’s fears of regional instability in the wake of the ultimate American navy withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaos that’s now spreading throughout the nation.

China was fast to explain the explosion as an act of terrorism. Pakistan later described it as an accident, however the particulars stay murky, and China has beforehand discovered itself the goal of threats from these against its rising financial and diplomatic affect in the area.

Pakistan’s info minister, Fawad Chaudhry, mentioned on Thursday that investigators had discovered traces of explosives, presumably on the bus carrying the Chinese staff. “Terrorism cannot be ruled out,” he wrote on Twitter.

China’s chief, Xi Jinping, with Premier Li Keqiang in March at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Mr. Xi raised issues about the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in June, citing safety issues.Credit…Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“They’re certainly feeling nervous,” mentioned Barnett R. Rubin, a former State Department official and United Nations adviser on Afghanistan who’s a senior fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation.

With solely a residual navy contingent left to guard the American Embassy in Kabul, the Taliban have been steadily increasing their political management as Afghan authorities forces crumble or retreat. This month, Taliban forces seized Badakhshan, the province that reaches the mountainous Chinese border by way of the Wakhan Corridor.

While that slender territory poses little direct safety menace, China fears that the breakdown of order in Afghanistan might spill out of the nation to different neighbors, together with Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.

Mr. Wang is touring by way of Central Asia this week with the Afghan state of affairs excessive on the agenda.

“We don’t want to see a turbulent country around us that becomes such a soil for terrorist activities,” mentioned Li Wei, an analyst at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a analysis group in Beijing affiliated with the Ministry of State Security.

The Taliban, after they ruled Afghanistan earlier than the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults, gave haven to some Uyghur fighters resisting Chinese rule in Xinjiang, the predominantly Muslim province in western China that the fighters name East Turkestan.

VideoA bus carrying dozens of building staff fell right into a ravine after a gasoline leak in the automobile induced an explosion. The crash killed at the very least 12 folks together with 9 Chinese, Pakistani officers mentioned.CreditCredit…Rescue 1122, by way of EPA, by way of Shutterstock

Twenty-two of these fighters ended up in American custody in the jail at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, solely to be launched slowly to a number of different international locations, together with Albania, Slovakia, Bermuda and Palau. Uyghur militants have additionally fought in Syria’s civil conflict, and there are reviews that some have returned to Afghanistan.

“If there’s more disorder in Afghanistan, the Uyghurs could get a foothold again, or a bigger one,” Mr. Rubin mentioned.

After the Sept. 11 assaults, the United States designated the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as a terrorist group, partially to domesticate China’s help for American efforts in the “war on terror.” The Trump administration revoked the designation final 12 months, saying that there was no proof that the group continued to hold out assaults. China has cited the menace of Uyghur extremism as a motive for its mass detention camps in Xinjiang.

According to the United Nations, the Uyghur group as soon as maintained hyperlinks to Al Qaeda and arranged assaults on targets inside and outdoors of China, together with ones in Xinjiang that killed 140 folks in 1998.

Liu Yunfeng, the director of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, mentioned this week at a information convention that whereas there had been no main terrorist assault in China in the previous 4 years, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement continued to advertise terrorism from overseas and prepare fighters “to sneak into our territory.”

“We still need to maintain a high degree of vigilance,” he mentioned, in keeping with a transcript posted by the ministry.

The Hotan bazaar in Xinjiang, China. The Taliban gave haven to Uyghur fighters resisting Chinese rule in Xinjiang after they had been in energy in Afghanistan.Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

With the American withdrawal on the horizon, China has sought to maintain channels open to each the Taliban and Afghan forces, interesting for a peaceable decision to a long time of battle that predated the American intervention. It has been a fragile diplomatic steadiness.

China has praised the present Afghan authorities, together with what it says are efforts to combat the East Turkestan militants. It additionally performed host to a delegation of Taliban leaders in 2019. While China has mentioned little about the nature of its discussions with the group, it has muted its criticism as the American-led navy presence winds down.

In latest statements, Taliban representatives have additionally sought to assuage China’s issues about its previous help for enemies of Chinese rule, saying a restored Taliban authorities would pose no menace to the nation. In reality, it might welcome Chinese investments.

As the Taliban have steadily gained floor, China has left its diplomatic choices open. The Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper that typically displays the authorities’s hawkish aspect, steered this week that fears about the collapse of the present Afghan authorities had been overstated.

“With the evolving Afghanistan situation, the Taliban is quietly transforming itself to improve its international image, easing the concerns of and befriending neighboring countries,” the newspaper wrote on Tuesday.

Such views additionally replicate China’s shut relationship with Pakistan, which supplied help for the Taliban management throughout the lengthy American involvement in Afghanistan.

Bagram Air Field in 2019 in Kabul. With the withdrawal of the American navy, the Taliban have been steadily increasing their management, which China fears might convey chaos to neighboring international locations.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

After Chinese officers initially denounced Wednesday’s deaths in Pakistan as a terrorist assault, they tempered their remarks when the Pakistani Foreign Ministry launched a press release saying that the explosion that despatched a truck tumbling right into a ravine was brought on by a mechanical malfunction.

Exactly what occurred stays unclear, nonetheless. At least two Pakistani paramilitary troopers and two different civilians died, whereas greater than 40 folks had been injured. It was not clear if the troopers had been guarding the staff as they traveled to a Chinese-built hydroelectric undertaking at Dasu, a metropolis in the nation’s rural northwest, about 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

China has confronted terrorist threats in Pakistan earlier than. In 2018, three suicide attackers stormed the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, killing two cops and two civilians earlier than being killed themselves. The group that claimed duty for that assault, the Baluchistan Liberation Army, attacked a luxurious resort in Gwadar a 12 months later, saying they had been concentrating on Chinese friends.

In April, a distinct group attacked a resort in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, solely moments earlier than China’s ambassador was scheduled to reach. Although it was not clear if the attackers knew of the ambassador’s arrival, the group that claimed duty, the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, mentioned its supposed targets had been “locals and foreigners” staying at the resort.

After talking with Pakistan’s overseas minister about the explosion on Wednesday, Mr. Wang, the overseas minister, referred to as for larger safety measures for Chinese building tasks in Pakistan, lots of them being constructed underneath China’s “belt and road” initiative.

Chinese officers have supplied to increase these tasks to Afghanistan, however have made little progress. Previous Chinese tasks there did not reside as much as expectations, most prominently a copper mine concession that Chinese corporations acquired in 2007.

“If it is a terrorist attack,” Mr. Wang mentioned of the episode on Wednesday, “the perpetrators must be arrested immediately, and the perpetrators must be severely punished.”

Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad. Claire Fu contributed analysis.