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US withdrawal from Afghanistan raises concerns over 'unfettered access' by China

ANI | Updated: May 23, 2021 16:33 IST

New York [US], May 23 (ANI): As the US continues to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, several voices in Washington, including some from the Biden administration, expressed concern over 'serious consequences' for the region after the Americans leave, especially from China filing a power vacuum created by a 'strategic retrograde' from the war-torn nation.
"It is clear that there is a number of different countries around the region that do have interests and that have the potential to exercise malign influence in Afghanistan," said David Helvey, acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, at a US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, reported Nikkei Asia.
Helvey further said that China does have an interest in Afghanistan. "That China's influence could be used to undermine stability, instead of reinforce stability or support stability, obviously, that's something that we've got concern about," he said.
After US President Joe Biden announced the decision to withdraw American troops from Kabul, a bipartisan chorus of voices in Washington has raised concerns over the impact of the withdrawal, including the protection of women, minorities, media and the collapse of Afghan security forces.
US Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn had earlier questioned Pentagon officials about the possibility of China using its Belt and Road initiative to gain "unfettered access" across Afghanistan to Iran, potentially connecting the two American rivals.

"We have been in Afghanistan for over 20 years, and too many of our brave service members have been killed," said Blackburn on Friday in reply to a question from Nikkei Asia.
"To pull out based on an arbitrary date risks sacrificing all of the gains our troops have expended. It also sacrifices any remaining leverage we have against the Taliban -- and willfully goes against the intelligence community's threat assessment. Lastly, to pick September 11 as the withdrawal date is extremely disrespectful to all who lost loved ones on 9/11," she added.
The top commander in the Middle East and Afghanistan, General Frank McKenzie, who is overseeing the withdrawal as the commander of US Central Command, said Afghanistan's military "will certainly collapse" after the withdrawal without American support.
He also admitted that he was concerned about the security of the American Embassy in Kabul after the US withdrawal and the prospects of China filling the vacuum in the region, reported Nikkei Asia.
Earlier this month, China had blamed the United States' "abrupt announcement of complete withdrawal of forces" for the succession of explosive attacks throughout Afghanistan, saying the step has worsened the security situation and has threatened peace and stability as well as people's lives and safety in the war-torn country.
US President Joe Biden announced last month the decision to withdraw troops by September 11. The Taliban rejected President Joe Biden's announcement that troops would stay on past the deadline but withdraw over the next four and a half months. (ANI)