A US-China confrontation is threatening the fate of the UN’s mission to Afghanistan, known as UNAMA. The mission, whose mandate is due to expire on Tuesday, needs a resolution to be passed without vetoes, and the current resolution does not include provisions for China’s Belt and Road project. While threatening a veto, China has also proposed a “short draft resolution,” which would keep UNAMA temporarily running, but this stopgap measure might not get the necessary nine votes, because some members may abstain.
The UN mission, which was established in 2002, is currently helping Afghanistan prepare for the Sept. 28 elections and is advocating for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
UNAMA’s previous renewals all included encouragement for efforts like China’s Belt and Road initiative, because the project would aid trade and transportation.
But in March, the US and other council members wanted the language regarding the Belt and Road initiative removed, which triggered the stand-off with China. Currently, the mission is sustained by a temporary six-month provision.
Acting US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen accused China of holding “the resolution hostage” by “making it about Chinese national political priorities rather than the people of Afghanistan.” He referenced the initiative’s “known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and lack of transparency.”
The Belt and Road initiative, which would link China with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, recently received pledges of support from Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Regional Economic Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA). A cooperative agreement described as “China-Afghanistan-Pakistan plus” was discussed by all three nations, and China expressed readiness to support construction of refrigeration storages, clinic centers, drinking water supply schemes and immigration reception centers at crossing points between Afghanistan and Pakistan to facilitate the movement of people and trade activities among the two countries.