China Moves Forces into Afghanistan
6 October, 2001
Before even the launching of the major US military offensive in Afghanistan, long Chinese convoys were carrying armed Chinese Muslim servicemen through northwest China into Afghanistan, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence experts.
They were sent in to fight alongside the ruling Taliban and Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. Their number is estimated roughly between 5000 and 15,000. Our sources report another three convoys are behind the first 3000, who crossed the frontier Friday, October 5.
They are entering Afghanistan along the ancient Krakoram Road to the Afghan-Pakistani border, through the Kulik Pass of Little Pamir, which is situated in one of the highest and most remote regions of the world.
Beijing is deploying this force in two places:
A. Whakyir, the Kirgyz tribal encampment near the Little Pamir-Tadjik frontier, opposite the swelling concentration of US and Russian Special Forces and air strength
The Chinese have brought with them Kirgyz fundamentalist militants from the Ferghana Valley of Central Asia, as interpreters.
From Whakyir, the Chinese generals believe, with Bin Laden’s and the Taliban’s tacticians, they will be able to block off the movement of the US-led force from its rallying point in Dzhartygumbez, Tadjikistan, no more than 35 miles from Little Pamir, into the mountains of Hindu Kush.
B. Jalalabad in north Afghanistan, at the foot of the Hindu Kush range.
DEBKAfile’s Chinese sources reveal that, immediately after the terrorist strikes in the United States on September 11, the Chinese intelligence service, MSS, handed in to the defense ministry in Beijing their estimation that the United States would go to war to overthrow the Taliban regime, for the sake of which it would sign a pact with Russia. The Chinese leadership viewed this eventuality as the most significant shift in the global balance since the 1962 Chinese-Russian feud, with dangerous implications for China’s world standing and its interests in Central and Southwest Asia. They decided it must be counteracted.
The only satisfactory outcome of the Bin Laden crisis in Chinese eyes is the redeployment of Japanese-based US troops to the Persian Gulf, when the Kitty Hawk carrier moved the 3rd Marines Division out of Okinawa last week.
Chinese intelligence did not miss the absence of fighters and reconnaissance craft on her decks. The planes stayed behind, but the very fact that the Kitty Hawk is no longer within operational range of the Straits of Taiwan leaves the disputed island with diminished protection.
Beijing also took note of additional US military movements, including the Army’s 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, New York and that of another formerly Pacific-based unit, the 25th Infantry Division, out of Hawaii to the Persian Gulf.
According to DEBKAfile ’s Far East experts, the removal of substantial US military strength from the Pacific Rim opened the way for Chinese intervention in Afghanistan and its effort to slow down the US-Russian advance.