Beijing's troops train for war on Afghan border : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 26 2001 Front line Beijing's troops train for war on Afghan border FROM OLIVER AUGUST IN KASHGAR BEIJING’S elite troops are practising guerrilla warfare near the Afghan border in expectation of attacks by Islamic extremists inside China.

A unit of the People’s Armed Police, usually based in Urumqi and believed to be among the best-trained in China, was moved last week to Kashgar in response to events in the US and Afghanistan.

Several hundred members of the unit were rehearsing tactics yesterday for close-quarter combat, including techniques for killing an enemy without a weapon. The troops have set up a temporary base at a sports stadium in Kashgar where dozens of olive green lorries used to bring in the troops are lined up.

A locally based soldier said: “The People’s Armed Police were sent here because of the attacks in America. The Government believes they are needed to keep order.”

At a military exercise ground near Kashgar airport, a second group of troops has set up a new base. Two-storey mock façades with large, blown out windows are used to simulate house-to-house fighting.

The troop movements are the clearest indication so far that China has intensified a long-running crackdown on its Islamic minority that uses the death penalty. The western province of Xinjiang is part of China, but local people — many, but not all, are Muslim — would like to see an independent state of East Turkistan. In recent years, Beijing has tried to contain separatist violence, including bombings and assassinations.

The current confrontation between Afghanistan and the West has boosted local support for Islamic causes. One Muslim said: “The US should have proof of who is responsible for the attacks before they do anything. The Taleban are true believers. Here, we are governed by (Chinese) rules, not the Koran.”

A Western diplomat said: “We expected a troop deployment to the area by the Chinese but have to emphasise that it was in no way requested by us.”

The crisis in Afghanistan has left Beijing with a complex diplomatic balance sheet. On the one hand, China’s leaders hope that anti-Islamic feelings in the West will make it easier to crack down in Xinjiang. On the other, Beijing is concerned at the possibility of an American military adventure in Afghanistan.

One Beijing-based diplomat said: “We assume that Beijing will take opportunistic actions, knowing the world will not object at the moment.” In the near future, he added, human rights groups were unlikely to find much of an audience for their reports about police brutality and colonial exploitation.

But Beijing fears a marked loss of influence in the region, according to analysts. An influx of US troops in the former Soviet republics on China’s western border would destroy the notion that Russia and China have exclusive rights to a Central Asian sphere of influence. Since the mid-1990s, Beijing has carefully nurtured this notion in the hope of deterring any American involvement. Plans to build pipelines from Central Asian oil fields to China were aimed at keeping out US business interests.

What China fears even more than US troops, however, is extensive Nato involvement in the area, amounting to an eastward enlargement all the way to China’s border. Robert Karniol, Asia Editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly, said: “What would really worry the Chinese is if Nato got involved in Central Asia.”

In addition to the countries on China’s western border, the US military is planning to use bases in Japan, South Korea and Thailand for its missions in Afghanistan, further adding to Beijing’s woes. A member of the British Government told The Times last week: “There is a lot of talk of encirclement in China.”

But all these diplomatic considerations might be dwarfed by the problems arising from an Afghan refugee exodus to China. A Kashgar resident said: “The Government fears that lots of people will come across the border, even bin Laden himself.”

According to local tour operators, border traffic with Pakistan has come almost to a standstill in the past two weeks. Nevertheless, Pakistani newspapers reported that Osama bin Laden was travelling down the Wakhan corridor to the Chinese border in hope of finding refuge.

China is believed to have had regular contacts with the Taleban in recent years, making it vulnerable to US charges that it has aided terrorists.

Following the US attack on bin Laden in 1998, the Chinese military was apparently invited to inspect unexploded cruise missiles. Beijing’s main aim on the diplomatic stage at the moment is to come out of this crisis unscathed.

In return for its tacit support of the US, it expects to be rewarded by Washington. However, it does not want to be seen as an outright supporter of the war on terrorism to protect its strong relations with assumed terror sponsors such as North Korea, Libya, Syria and Iraq. Hence, China has been less supportive of the US than lukewarm friends of America such as Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian leader. While public gloating at the World Trade Centre attack was quashed in Gaza, Chinese websites continue to serve up Schadenfreude. At the same time, a Chinese government spokesman has given warning that military intervention would only “aggravate terrorism and violence”.

Beijing’s diplomatic manoeuvring may seem perplexing to observers but it is not new to the region. For decades, Kashgar was host to the players of the Great Game, the imperial tug of war between Britain and Russia in the 19th century for influence in Central Asia, India and China. Operating from their respective consulates, diplomats, generals, adventurers and agents of the East India Company struggled for mastery in the same rugged land that once again occupies world attention. The old consular buildings in Kashgar are still standing but their owners are now Chinese, the new participants in this replay of the Great Game.

-- PHO (, September 26, 2001


HEY- This is a perfect opportunity for THE WORLD, to get serious about saftey and unity. And we need to do a certain amount of cleaning up to do this. It doesn't have to be, ok, the USA is annwexing you and taking it over. It needs to be- ok, Russia and China are all in the UN now,AND we will ALL split the assets; and they will live by our rules. Which means, they will not kill each other for not being HIP. And THEY will stop smelling each other's asses all in a row like that. THAT'S ALL.

-- jimmie the weed (THINKASUR@AOL.COM), September 26, 2001.

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