Weeks after initial reports emerged that China had an interest in using Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, a new spate of reports have emerged on social media indicating that activity at the former U.S. base could indicate that China is moving forward with that plan.
In early September, U.S. News and World Report said China was interested in using the base, which was abandoned by the U.S. weeks before the military’s final departure from Afghanistan.
The base had been the largest American-run facility in Afghanistan. Multiple military assets given to Afghanistan by the United States were taken when the Taliban overran the base.
The report said China was assessing the feasibility of using the base as a forward outpost, later prompting official denials from the Chinese government.
On Sunday journalist Tajuden Soroush of the London-based Iran International, an Iranian opposition outlet, tweeted that activity at the base is giving new life to the idea that China is moving in.
“Sources in Bagram say they have seen military planes are landing at Bagram airbase. Earlier reported that some Chinese are seen there either but the Taliban denied it. Bagram was the biggest US base in Afghanistan and at least 3 US president visited during the last 20 years,” he tweeted.
Sources in Bagram say they have seen military planes are landing at Bagram airbase. Earlier reported that some Chinese are seen there either but the Taliban denied it. Bagram was the beggest US base in Afghanistan and at least 3 US president visited during the last 20 years.
— Tajuden Soroush (@TajudenSoroush) October 3, 2021
Other social media posts also indicated there was activity at the base.
The lights at Bagram Military Airport, where it was the main base for US military for 20 years, after nearly two months are on tonight. No information who is there, and why the lights are on tonight after nearly two months…
—— CHINA??? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/oD4zFK6wZt
— Natiq Malikzada (@natiqmalikzada) October 2, 2021
There have been multiple reports of Chinese military planes arriving at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. The move would be an attempt by China to strengthen ties with the Taliban and embarrass America.https://t.co/vdWhKj88cM
— Dr. Lawrence Sellin (@LawrenceSellin) October 3, 2021
Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center, said official denials aside, occupying the base would be attractive to China, according to the U.K. Daily Mail.
“Given their past experience, the Chinese must be eager to get their hands on whatever the U.S. has left at the base,” she said.
“If the Taliban requests Chinese assistance, I think China will be inclined to send human support. Most likely, they will frame it as technical support or logistic support,” she said.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has said using the airfield would be very tempting for China, according to the Daily Mail.
“I think you are going to see China make a move for Bagram Air Force Base,” she said last month.
While not confirming Haley’s comment, a Taliban spokesman noted that China is a Taliban ally.
“China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country,” Zabihullah Mujahid said.