Updated: Jan 17
The People's Republic of China (PRC) was the subject of a classified intelligence briefing to the President of the United States (POTUS) after unconfirmed reports indicated officers with the Ministry of State Security (MSS) and People's Liberation Army (PLA) had offered Afghan militants funding in exchange for attacks on coalition forces. The briefing came days after Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) reportedly arrested ten Chinese intelligence specialists operating within the war-torn country's borders. If the intelligence presented within the briefing is confirmed to be accurate, Beijing and Washington's already poor relationship would sour considerably.
Chinese Case Officers Arrested in Kabul
On December 10, 2020, Afghanistan's main intelligence agency, the NDS, directed an operation that resulted in the arrests of 10 Chinese nationals in Kabul, the nation's capital. According to Indian and Afghan sources, at least one member of the group was a member of the MSS, the PRC's premier counterintelligence and intelligence collection agency. The exact mission of these individuals at the time of their apprehension is unknown. Despite multiple requests for comment, the Afghan government has refused to acknowledge the situation, making it nearly impossible for confirm the validity of these reports.
Chinese Funding & Support for Afghan Militants
The intelligence report presented to President Trump focused on reports that China offered funding to Afghan militants if they ramped up attacks on US and coalition troops. Although the information presented within the product has been judged to be somewhat reliable, it remains unconfirmed. As such, US intelligence agencies will likely work with partners to see if presented intelligence could be corroborated with the help of allied and partner states.
Until further information is gathered, The Intelligence Ledger is hesitant to provide a definitive answer as to the legitimacy of the information presented within the presidential intelligence briefing. Although Chinese-made weaponry has been utilized by the Taliban and other militant groups in their fight against the United States, Beijing's active encouragement of insurgents to attack coalition troops would be a major escalation. Furthermore, the arming of extremist factions seems counterintuitive, as Beijing has a public desire to prevent Muslim separatist groups from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) from using Afghanistan as a base from which to launch further attacks.
The Intelligence Ledger has previously highlighted an interested move by the People's Republic of China in 2000 when they abstained from a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution which called on all states to halt or stop military assistance and technical support to the Taliban, thus giving them more freedom to operate on the ground.