The Taliban-Haqqani terror regime proved again that they have zero understanding of and respect for human rights, as they continued their ban on girls’ education. No one should be surprised by the last-minute denial of education that left girls crying outside their schools this week. Unfortunately for Afghans, the one giant nation neighboring Afghanistan that is showing great interest in them is an even worse human rights violator. China has quietly been asserting itself in Afghanistan as the NATO-plus coalition has walked away.

China’s Goal in Afghanistan

What does China seek is the billion-dollar question? I remember clearly watching my boss talk with the Chinese ambassador in 2002 as we asked China to at least not hinder ANA and security creation, as they made it clear they would not help. Karl Eikenberry requested, in flawless Mandarin, if they could stop the sale of cheap Chinese battle fatigues in the markets so that Afghans could start to see uniforms as a sign of security and not lawless militias. China’s envoy smiled at the thought of aiding in building security…they wanted to watch America struggle.

China would continue to toy with Afghan hopes and the Afghan economy for years as they pretended to be interested in the Mes Aynak copper mines. Finally in 2007, China-based companies signed a 30-year lease to begin to extract some of the 240 million tons of copper, now estimated at around $50 billion. They never helped Afghans earn a dime from the mines and blamed insecurity on their delays. The site also sits among ancient Buddhist antiquities, which complicates future wealth generation from the location.

With the Taliban-Haqqani regime in control of the nation at the moment, there has been a steep decline in Taliban-Haqqani terrorist attacks across the country, as they now quietly target Afghans and not foreigners. China is likely looking to make a better deal, to try to practically steal the copper this time.

Many nations are growing wiser to the Chinese tactics of overpromising and underdelivering, as China continues its global quest to secure precious metals and minerals. In Zambia this week a new government has cancelled a $1.2 billion contract with a Chinese company who was improving a vital road that linked the capital to the copper-rich areas. The new government called out the company for overpricing the project and accused the former regime of being taken advantage of by China. This will likely be the case for Afghanistan as well.

Taliban-Haqqani Regime Gets Support from China and Pakistan

My sources in Afghanistan have clearly noticed a surge in Chinese citizens around the country. They are no longer just working in the Kabul Green Zone. Chinese companies are renting homes throughout Kabul to set up their operations. Many note that Chinese interests are moving well beyond economic, and it is likely the China-Pakistan “iron brotherhood” pact is a reason why.

Pakistan is heavily invested in the Taliban-Haqqani regime gaining international recognition as a government, and maintaining security control in the country. Multiple sources have noted that China is lending cyber expertise to the Taliban intelligence operations to help them identify and locate former ANDSF members that might be security threats. It is believed China is helping crack many NDS files and the APPS system that NATO helped Afghans create to capture biometrics of their security forces. It likely has over 500,000 identities on it.

A well-placed intelligence source explained that the Chinese are helping Pakistan to reinforce the Haqqani militia members in the new regime and running a reward program for fighters that helped “kick the U.S. out of Afghanistan.” They noted that China has provided many experts to help Taliban intelligence operatives in the areas of intercept, scanners, propaganda, analysis, and even providing uniforms for them secretly. The Chinese see it in their economic and security interests to stabilize the Taliban-Haqqani regime, while putting more support towards the most violent and radicalized elements in the regime. Neither of these Chinese aims will benefit the vast majority of the Afghan people.

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild and aids with conflict resolution in Afghanistan.