Ambassador Alice Wells, with the US State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said in a discussion at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC on Thursday that “China has not been a real player in Afghanistan development” and “is not a provider of any significant grant assistance.” She said that neighbors Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have done much more to aid Afghanistan with “regional connectivity initiatives” such as cross-border railways, electricity lines and trade exchange.
However, Wells acknowledged that China can play an important role in the peace process:
“Right now I would say I see opportunities for the United States and China to be important partners in reinforcing the need for a negotiated political settlement, and you see Ambassador Khalilzad regularly consulting with his Chinese counterpart, among other regional actors.”
Wells also spoke about the US relationship with Pakistan, saying as “Pakistan takes steps to move away and to restrict the ability of non-state terrorist proxies, the potential for our relationship to grow ever-deeper is there.”
These comments come as China is scheduled to host a peace settlement meeting. The meeting was scheduled to take place last month but was delayed for some reason.
The Afghan government says it has set up a delegation list to attend the meeting, but meeting time has not been announced.
In related news, two US senators, Bob Menendez and Todd Young, have introduced a bill to mandate congressional oversight of the Afghan peace settlement.
The legislation is intended to protect Afghan human rights, prevent the “chaos” of a quick troop withdrawal, and deny access to terrorists seeking a safe haven.