Military officials and security analysts foresee the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — due for completion in the coming months — as an opportunity for China and Russia to compete for influence there.“Afghanistan is clearly a place of interest” for China, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said during an interview with VOA in Egypt Tuesday.Noting China’s aggressive drive to build infrastructure across Asia and beyond, he said, “Anywhere you see [these projects] across the Middle East, that’s where in fact nations are vulnerable. I think Afghanistan is going to be one of those areas as we go forward.”WATCH: Gen. Frank McKenzie Talks to VOASorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
Army Gen. Joseph Votel speaks to reporters May 21, 2016 during a secret trip to Syria.“We should expect to see more of that,” Votel said, adding that as America’s military presence is cut, the U.S. must “make sure that our diplomatic house is in order” through confirmed ambassadors and well-resourced, in-country State Department teams that can defend and support U.S. interests.For years, China has been expanding its economic power through “Belt and Road” initiatives across the globe, providing affordable infrastructure in the short-term, in exchange for long-term debt repayment plans that leave countries more dependent on China’s authoritarian government. Beijing has already said that it wants to expand the program to Afghanistan.China’s Interests in AfghanistanChina opposed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago, but now also opposes a quick American withdrawal which, Beijing says, could leave the country in even more turmoil.Last month following another deadly attack in Kabul, a spokesperson for FILE – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting on April 25, 2019, as part of the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.This handout photo taken from a video released on April 22, 2021 by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, shows Russian troops take part in drills in Crimea.Although the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, Russia continues to see itself as a dominant player in Central Asia, where it maintains a significant military presence. “Moscow is the region’s largest arms supplier and has thousands of troops stationed at bases in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan,” according toFILE – A protester from the Uighur community living in Turkey holds up an anti-China placard during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 1, 2020.Michael Yahuda, an emeritus professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told VOA Mandarin in an email that China and Russia have different interests in Afghanistan.“China fears that its Uighurs may both draw strength from their fellow Uighurs in Afghanistan, who may supply terrorists and others to make life difficult for the Chinese. The Chinese can be expected to be more active in Afghanistan,” he said. “But Russia will be unlikely to do much. The memory of its humiliation there is still fresh.”Ross from Boston College agrees. He said that only China has the resources and the political will to play a role in post-war Afghanistan, and the SCO will be a platform, but not the only platform.He suggests it’s likely that the Chinese will take a two-way approach, pumping up the anti-terrorism initiative with the SCO while simultaneously working independently with Afghans to build a lasting economic initiative. 

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