Uighur militants seen as new threat in Afghanistan

Recent US raids in Afghanistan have targeted presumed forces of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the supposed Uighur militant network active in China's far-western Xinjiang region. This news comes amid reports that China is preparing to establish a military base in the same region of Afghanistan. On Feb. 6, NATO's Resolute Support said in a press release that US forces in Afghanistan had carried out a series of air-strikes on "Taliban training facilities in Badakhshan province, preventing the planning and rehearsal of terrorist acts near the border with China and Tajikistan by such organizations as the East Turkistan [sic] Islamic Movement and others." Badakhshan province forms a long panhandle between Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south to reach a border with Chinese territory.

China has formally denied reports that it is building a military base Badakhshan on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. At a Jan. 25 press briefing, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian stated: "The so-called issue that China is building a military base in Afghanistan is groundless." But Russia-based Fergana News agency quoted an Afghan official, named as Gen. Dawlat Waziri, speaking about the base plan after an Afghan military mission to Beijing last month. An official statement said the meeting was intended to "deepen pragmatic cooperation in various fields including anti-terrorism operations." (The Diplomat, Feb. 9; Eurasianet, Feb. 7; The Diplomat, Jan. 2)

Photo: US troops on patrol in Zabul province; US Army via Flickr