American and Chinese interests seem to be conveniently aligned in Afghanistan, writes Robert D. Kaplan. By securing the country, NATO forces have allowed China access to vast mineral deposits and trade routes to the Indian Ocean. In turn, Chinese companies employ Afghan workers, stabilizing the economy and hence the nation. All very nice. But one can’t deny that “while America is sacrificing blood and treasure, the Chinese will reap the benefits.” Infuriatingly, Kaplan writes, that will hold true even if we cut and run.
Though China obviously prefers access to a stable Afghanistan, Kaplan writes in the New York Times, the return of a radical Islamist powerhouse in the region would also suit its purposes. If the Taliban is no longer beset on the western border of Pakistan, US ally—and Chinese foe—India will likely have a harder time with them on its borders. “Bottom line,” Kaplan writes, “China will find a way to benefit no matter what the United States does in Afghanistan.” To save American honor and standing, “we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight,” Kaplan writes. But never again.