A new bombshell report in US News & World Report claims that China's military is looking to move into what was previously America's single most important and iconic airbase in Afghanistan - Bagram airfield.
"The Chinese military is currently conducting a feasibility study about the effect of sending workers, soldiers and other staff related to its foreign economic investment program known as the Belt and Road Initiative in the coming years to Bagram, according to a source briefed on the study by Chinese military officials, who spoke to U.S. News on the condition of anonymity," the report says.
The sprawling airfield, which goes all the way back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, lies an hour outside Kabul and was considered the busiest US base in the world during the two-decade long US war.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday vehemently denied and condemned the allegation that China's PLA military was poised to take the base over, essentially calling it 'fake news'. "What I can tell everyone is that that is a piece of purely false information," spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
US News' sources suggested any such move would be at least two years out, and would require the invitation and consent of the Taliban government.
A week ago Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that China will be Afghanistan’s "most important partner" as the new government is seeking infrastructure investments. "China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country," Mujahid explained.
The spokesman added that there are "rich copper mines in the country, which, thanks to the Chinese, can be put back into operation and modernized. In addition, China is our pass to markets all over the world." It's long been no secret that wherever China sees an opportunity to expand its Belt and Road Initiative projects across Asia, it seeks to boost its security presence in the host nation.
General Milley: Bagram “not much value added…”— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) September 7, 2021
China: We will take it … https://t.co/9Ox85bhrtN
Despite Beijing's denials, it's clear that Chinese officials understand well the symbolic and strategic importance of possessing Bagram:
Beijing has already recognized the geostrategic importance of Bagram overtly. Its state media almost immediately hopped on the sudden and surprise U.S. departure from the key logistics hub in July, sending a video crew, which gained easy access to it, to document the aftermath of what it described as a "hasty withdrawal" and "humiliating defeat."
Indeed Chinese state media has taken every opportunity to point out that the US is an empire in retreat from the world stage, particularly after the chaos of the botched evacuation and final exit of last month.