Village Stability Operations (VSO)
VSO are one of several national priority efforts currently conducted by joint/combined SOF teams in rural village areas across Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force’s, or ISAF’s, comprehensive campaign of counterinsurgency, or COIN. The ultimate goal of the COIN campaign is to foster an enduring stability for the people of Afghanistan. Performing what are commonly described as “bottom-up” stability efforts….so says big Army.
The Chinese Taliban Partnership
VSO is a losing strategy if the U.S. is not invested in Afghanistan for the long haul and we all know that we’re only building houses of cards. Current VSO operations in theater will only provide temporary shelter from a Chinese storm that is sweeping across the Afghanistan nation, and squeezing the land of every available natural resource. China doesn’t give a fuck if the TB (Taliban) is in charge, just as long as they look the other way once they’re on the take; the TB will want their cut of course. This will happen as soon as the U.S. pulls out and it’s back to burkas as usual.
Ever heard of the Trans Afghan pipeline?
A friend of mine going to Afghanistan soon says….
“Guys like you and me can see the real future if China taps that 1Trillion worth of resources (God knows that they need them…). China will not give two shits if AFG returns to a complete safe haven for every terrorist faction on the globe that hates the USA. In fact, an unstable AFG is better for what they are hoping to accomplish. They may even promote that shit just to keep us on our toes knowing that there is no way in hell we would return. They are a very strategic “chess playing” country. Pricks.”-Anonymous US SOCOM Operator
Score: China 1 America 0.
China’s Afghan Game Plan
In his latest book, On China, Henry Kissinger uses the traditional intellectual games favored by China and the West – weiqi and chess – as a way to reveal their differing attitudes toward international power politics. Chess is about total victory, a Clausewitzian battle for the “center of gravity” and the eventual elimination of the enemy, whereas weiqi is a quest for relative advantage through a strategy of encirclement that avoids direct conflict.
This cultural contrast is a useful guide to the way that China manages its current competition with the West. China’s Afghan policy is a case in point, but it also is a formidable challenge to the weiqi way. As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from the country, China must deal with an uncertain post-war scenario.
Afghanistan is of vital strategic interest to China, yet it never crossed its leaders’ minds to defend those interests through war. A vital security zone to China’s west, Afghanistan is also an important corridor through which it can secure its interests in Pakistan (a traditional ally in China’s competition with India), and ensure its access to vital natural resources in the region. Moreover, China’s already restless Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, which borders on Afghanistan, might be dangerously affected by a Taliban takeover there, or by the country’s dismemberment.
The US fought its longest-ever war in Afghanistan, at a cost (so far) of more than $555 billion, not to mention tens of thousands of Afghan civilian casualties and close to 3,100 US troops killed. But China’s strategy in the country was mostly focused on business development, and on satiating its vast appetite for energy and minerals. The US Defense Department has valued Afghanistan’s untapped mineral deposits at $1 trillion. But it is China that is now poised to exploit much of these resources.
Indeed, China’s development of the Aynak Copper Mine was the largest single foreign direct investment in Afghanistan’s history. China was also engaged in constructing a $500 million electric plant and railway link between Tajikistan and Pakistan. Last December, China’s state-owned National Petroleum Corporation signed a deal with the Afghan authorities that would make it the first foreign company to exploit Afghanistan’s oil and natural-gas reserves.
Once China’s enormous economic and security interests in Afghanistan are left without America’s military shield, the Chinese are bound to play an even larger role there, one that Afghans hope will reach “strategic levels.”
China would prefer to accomplish this the Chinese way – that is, essentially through a display of soft power – or, as the Chinese government put it on the occasion of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s official visit to Beijing in early June, through “non-traditional security areas.”
Judging by China’s behavior in other parts of the world, any military cooperation is likely to be extremely modest and cautious. China has already made it clear it will not contribute to the $4.1 billion multilateral fund to sustain Afghan national security forces. Rather, the two countries’ recently signed bilateral cooperation agreement is about “safeguarding Afghanistan’s national stability” through social and economic development.
China is especially keen on combating drug trafficking, as Badakhshan, the Afghan province bordering on Xinjiang, has become the main transit route for Afghan opium. But preventing the spillover into Xinjiang of Taliban-inspired religious extremism remains a high priority as well.
China went to great lengths to present the recent summit in Beijing of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China, Russia, and major Central Asian countries, as an attempt to create a fair balance of interests among regional stakeholders. Moreover, the SCO sought a consensus on how, in Chinese President Hu Jintao’s words, to guard the region “against shocks from turbulence outside the region.”
Yet, however focused it is on soft-power projection in Afghanistan, China will likely find it difficult not to be drawn into the role of policeman in an extremely complex and historically conflict-ridden region. China’s regional outreach, moreover, clashes with that of other regional powers, such as Russia and India. Nor is its own ally, Pakistan, particularly eager to confront terrorist groups that threaten the security of its neighbors, China among them.
By: Shlomo Ben-Ami, the Israeli foreign minister who came closest to devising a viable peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
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