August 8, 2015 was the bloodiest day for Afghanistan’s capital in years. Three bombings in Kabul– outside a U.S. military base, an Afghan army compound, and a police academy – left over 50 dead and 500 wounded. Most of the victims were civilians, despite the nature of the targets. It was the worst day for civilian casualties since data began being collected in 2009, the UN mission in Afghanistan said.
Two days later, on August 10, China’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Deng Xijun, held what Pajhwok Afghan News called a “marathon meeting” with Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar. During the discussion, Pajhwok reported, Deng offered China’s condolences over the recent bombings in Kabul. He also said that China was ready to offer equipment and support to Afghanistan’s security forces.
As The Diplomat has previously covered, China is stepping up its support for Afghanistan as the U.S.-led NATO mission winds down, leaving Afghan forces in control of their country’s security. China, which shares a border with Afghanistan, is concerned that instability in the country could spill over into the broader South and Central Asia region – including China’s own Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
As a result, China has pledged more aid for the government in Kabul. When new President Ashraf Ghani made his first visit to China in October, he left with promises from Beijing to provide 2 billion RMB ($327 million) in aid through 2017 and to provide training for 3,000 Afghan professionals. When Chinese President Xi Jinping met Ghani again, this time on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Russia, he again pledged that “China will continue to supply Afghanistan with security supplies, technology, equipment and training assistance.”
Still, Beijing has been reluctant to provide the sort of military aid that Kabul most wants. So far, China’s involvement has been limited to the two areas Deng mentioned: providing equipment and support (usually through training) for Afghan forces. In practice, China has taken care to limit its involvement in the actual conflict by mostly providing police – rather than military – training and nonlethal security equipment.