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China and the Afghan Endgame

BEIJING – Ever since US President Barack Obama decided to begin withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, global interest in what role (if any) China will play in determining that war-ravaged country’s future has grown dramatically. After all, China is not merely a neighbor of Afghanistan, but the world’s most important rising power – indeed, a “world power,” as Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff proclaimed in Beijing this past June.

If China proves itself willing to help shore up Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration, it will not seek to gain any immediate advantage from the withdrawal of US forces. But, despite the billions of dollars China has invested in developing Afghanistan’s natural resources, it is hard to see it undertaking a policy of broader and proactive engagement there.