Reports: China Eyes Takeover of US Air Base in Afghanistan

Bagram Air Base was largest U.S. installation in Afghanistan before Biden withdrawal

A single Afghan soldier patrols Bagram Air Base after the American withdrawal / Getty Images
September 8, 2021

The Chinese military is reportedly eyeing a move into Bagram Air Base, only weeks after the Biden administration ordered a withdrawal from what was the United States' largest military installation in Afghanistan.

Multiple sources confirmed to U.S. News that the Chinese military is assessing the feasibility of sending soldiers and other officials to the abandoned military base, which the Biden administration shuttered in July before a full withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Top officials in Beijing deny they are pursuing a takeover of the base. "I can tell you this is purely fake news," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

Generals and lawmakers warned President Biden against giving up the base, which was the largest American installation on China's western border, during the Taliban offensive. The president went ahead with the withdrawal in spite of the warnings.

"Should the United States and China come to blows in the Pacific, a second front will be critical given China's ability to concentrate its naval and missile assets around Taiwan," House Armed Services Committee member Mike Waltz (R., Fla.), a former Green Beret, wrote in May. "Unexplainably, in addition to giving up the only air base in the world located in a country that physically borders China and Russia's southern border, the Biden administration will also give up a key strategic foothold along Iran's eastern flank, and along the nuclear-equipped and unstable Pakistan."

China is reportedly considering the takeover as part of its Belt and Road initiative, which advances Chinese economic influence in Central Asia and beyond. The Taliban has expressed interest in joining the initiative. Chinese diplomats last week hosted Taliban leaders but relegated a meeting with Biden climate czar John Kerry to a Zoom conference.