The two-day conference of the foreign and defence ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] which ended in Brussels on Thursday formally called on China, amongst other countries, to help finance Afghan security forces, which is estimated to cost 4 billion dollars annually. “We would welcome financial contributions from Russia, China and other countries to ensure a strong, sustainable Afghan security force beyond 2014″, secretary general Anders Fogh Rasumssen told reporters.
The aid appeal is primarily intended to ward off growing Russian demand for its inclusion in the NATO’s planning sessions on Afghanistan. But China has been singled out for reference. Beijing’s reaction will be interesting to watch. Seems unlikely that China will want to identify with the NATO’s residual war in Afghanistan.
The Chinese assessment of Afghan realities are very down-to-earth. The Global Times featured this week an interview with a prominent think tanker, Li Wei, who is the director of the Institute of Security and Strategic Studies at Beijing. Li’s candid assessment is that the rosy pictures by the NATO and western intelligence is for propaganda purposes and for raising the morale of the coalition forces; Taliban enjoy support among Afghan people and have infiltrated the state organs including the security forces.
Li even cast doubt on the NATO sticking to its withdrawal plans: “The Afghan government has yet to gain enough power to fight the Taliban on its own. Should NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the situation will get much more complex… The Afghan government is too weak to maintain stability and still largely depends on NATO to fight the insurgents.” By the way, Institute of Security and Strategic Studies comes under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, which is one of China’s most influential think tanks affiliated with China’s top intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security. (Transcript of Li’s interview is here.)
A major difference between the Russian and Chinese approaches is that while Moscow has woven the Afghan question into the broad matrix of its ‘reset’ of ties with the United States, Beijing’s approach is intrinsic to the Afghan situation. Thus, at the Brussels meeting yesterday, Russia offered the use of Ulyanovsk as the transit hub for two-way ferrying of war materials, and NATO accepted the offer gleefully. On its part, NATO is accommodating a Russian representative at the alliance’s Chicago summit in May although Vladimir Putin may not attend.
– April 20, 2012