China to build Tajikistan police base to secure Afghan border

Tajik service members during military drills at the Harb-Maidon training ground, located near the Tajik-Afghan border in the Khatlon region, Tajikistan, on Oct 23, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Tajikistan has accepted a Chinese proposal to build a police outpost on the Afghan border, local media reported, in the latest indication of Beijing's growing security concerns in the region after the United States withdrew from Kabul.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security, which primarily oversees domestic security, will spend about US$8.6 million (S$11.56 million) on the facility before turning it over to Tajik control, local media Asia-Plus reported Thursday (Oct 29), citing remarks in Parliament by First Deputy Interior Minister Abdurahmon Alamshozoda.

No Chinese personnel will be housed there, RFE/RL's Tajik service reported, citing a local deputy.

Still, the base is the latest sign of China's increasingly willingness to make security commitments outside its borders.

China has expressed alarm at the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan since the US decision to remove its last forces from the country in August and urged the new Taliban government to prevent terror groups from forming.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing Thursday in Beijing he was unaware of the reports about the project.

Tajik officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chinese troops have been based in Tajikistan since at least 2016 at a outpost located near Shaymak, near a narrow strip of Afghan territory called the Wakhan, or Vakhon, Corridor that borders China's Xinjiang region, the Washington Post has reported.

The new facility would be located in Gorno-Badakhshan province's Ishkashim district, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a parliamentary spokesperson.

That's further up the corridor toward Kabul and just 20km from Pakistan.

Beijing routinely rejects the description of its overseas military facilities as bases and Tajikistan has denied a Chinese military presence in the country.

The Public Security Ministry, which is building the Vakhon outpost, is closely associated with the People's Armed Police, a 1.5 million member paramilitary organisation under the direct command of the Central Military Commission led by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China is not alone among major power seeking to firm up Tajikistan's porous frontier.

The US announced last month that it would build a guard post in Ayvoj, its 13th since 2002.

Russia said in May that it was financing the construction of a outpost on the Afghan border, without saying where. It also operates a military base in the country that it will equip with 30 new tanks this year, Interfax reported in September.

China views Afghanistan's stability as key to prevent terrorist groups from spilling into Xinjiang and protect more than US$50 billion worth of Belt-and-Road projects in neighboring Pakistan.

Mr Fu Xiaoqiang, vice-director at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said in a commentary in August that the Afghan chaos had spilled into Tajikistan and Pakistan, and would continue to "implicate the peace along China's western borders".

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