NATO may ask China to provide support for the war effort in Afghanistan, including possibly opening a supply link for alliance forces, a senior U.S. official said Monday.
The subject is still under consideration and no decision has been reached on whether to approach Beijing, the official said on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue.
He spoke ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Thursday in Brussels, which will include Hillary Rodham Clinton in her first European trip as U.S. secretary of state.
One way Beijing could help would be to open an alternate logistics route through western China into Afghanistan, the U.S. official said in Brussels.
China shares a 76-kilometer- (50-mile)-long border with Afghanistan in the Wakhan Corridor, a thin sparsely populated strip of Afghan territory separating Pakistan and Tajikistan. The 2,000-year-old-caravan route — once used by Marco Polo — is now a dirt road that crosses some of the world's most mountainous regions.
Until now, China — which also has faced problems with Islamic militants in its western regions — has generally been supportive of the Afghan government and the U.S.-led allied war effort. But Beijing has shied away from involving itself too closely in the conflict.
Forget the convenient fiction that NATO is asking for Chinese involvement; we are asking for Chinese involvement.
Let's take a look at what's in play here: China is our number one creditor and number one trading partner. China recently got a virtual pass on human rights from the US. China is calling the tune on US-China high-level military talks. China is taking a greater and greater unilateral role in Africa and southeast Asia. China is our major competitor for the oil and natural gas that will come out of Afghanistan. China wants us to stop asking questions about Tibet (and would really like us to declare Tibetan nationalists to be terrorists).
Wonder what a military road through the Wakhan Corridor will cost--and I'm not talking bulldozers here.