Chinese Military Begins Arriving at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, Reports Say
Reports say China's military planes are landing at the former US stronghold
The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) military has begun arriving America's abandoned Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, emerging reports are claiming.
Multiple reports have stated that military planes started arriving at Bagram just hours after images emerged showing that power was restored to the base.
Photos circulating on social media appear to show the former U.S. military base's runways floodlit for the first time since American forces evacuated the stronghold in July.
The images coincide with reports that several Chinese military planes have taken off and landed at the base in recent hours.
Several sources have also suggested that the aircraft are most likely Chinese, given the Taliban is not thought to possess the expertise needed to power the base or maintain and fly several military aircraft.
It comes after Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center think tank, said China would likely be very interested in occupying the airbase following the US pullout.
US forces in Afghanistan abandoned their main base at Bagram airport overnight - shutting off the lights and slipping away into the night without telling government forces who were supposed to take it over.
The military airfield, located roughly an hour from Kabul, was first established by the Soviets during their own occupation of Afghanistan, after which it was seized by US forces and used as one of their main operating bases for 20 years.
According to U.S. News & World Report, China has been considering sending military personnel and economic development officials to Bagram airbase, and has conducted a "feasibility study" on the effect of such a plan as part of its "Belt and Road Initiative."
A move to occupy Bagram airbase would go towards strengthening relations with the Taliban and further embarrassing America.
The report was denied by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.
"What I can tell everyone is that that is a piece of purely false information," Wang Wenbin told reporters last month.
But Sun Yun was suspicious of the Chinese denial and claimed that Chinese forces would be very interested in occupying the base.
"Given their past experience, the Chinese must be eager to get their hands on whatever the US has left at the base," said Sun.
Taliban fighters had occupied the airfield following the US pullout, but are not thought to have the equipment or expertise necessary to restore power to the whole base, let alone conduct flight operations in and out of the airfield.
For their part, the Taliban have rejected the notion that Bagram airbase has been occupied by Chinese forces, but made no mention of who may have illuminated the lights at the base or the origin of the planes landing at the airfield.
Former American Ambassador to the United Nations and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley seemed to predict something like this in the wake of the United States' departure.
"We need to watch China because I think you are going to see China make a move for Bagram Air Force Base," said Haley in an interview with Fox News as she made the case for reconnecting with allies who felt let down by a precipitous withdrawal.
"I think they are also making a move in Afghanistan and trying to use Pakistan to get stronger to go against India.
"So, we have got a lot of issues.
"The biggest thing he should do is strengthen our allies, strengthen those relationships, modernize our military, and make sure we are prepared for the cyber-crimes and the terrorist crimes that are headed our way."
While Western nations were evacuating their embassies, the Chinese mission kept operating.
Their security guards simply change from Afghan government security forces to Taliban gunmen.
The Taliban has already begun talking up plans for cooperation with Beijing.
A Taliban spokesman told an Italian newspaper that Afghanistan's new rulers will rely primarily on financing from China as it seeks to head off a looming humanitarian crisis and begin reconstruction.
"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," Zabihullah Mujahid told La Repubblica in an interview.
He also praised the New Silk Road – part of the Belt and Road Initiative that China is using to open up trade routes – and said Beijing investment could help reopen copper mines.
A report suggests China's deployment might not be coming for another two years and it would not involve them taking over the base, merely sending personnel at the Taliban's invite.
China will likely achieve its latest ambitions for Bagram through help from Pakistan, Sun says, adding, "I am sure they would like to cut out the middleman.
"If the Taliban requests Chinese assistance, I think China will be inclined to send human support.
"Most likely, they will frame it as technical support or logistic support."