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US Afghan supply via China bid rebuffed

- July 03, 2011 - Updated 835 PKT - From Web Edition

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration quietly tried to persuade China to open a major supply route to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to diplomatic cables, but Beijing rebuffed the idea as military relations with Washington soured.


In February 2009, the State Department directed the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to make a formal proposal to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to permit the overland transit of supplies to U.S. and NATO troops, cables obtained by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks show.


The route would have followed railroads in China before crossing into Kazakhstan, where it would have linked up with supply lines that traverse Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, according to a Feb. 10, 2009, cable from Washington signed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. China shares a small border with Afghanistan, but the stretch is remote and lacks adequate transit links.


The cable noted that China had “expressed interest in cooperating with the U.S. for delivery of non-lethal aid to Afghanistan” as far back as 2006. It also said the Pentagon was seeking only to move “non-lethal” items such as food, tents, blankets and construction material through China. Private commercial carriers would have been used, and no U.S. military personnel would have been present along the route.


The decision by Washington to seek help from Beijing underscored the degree to which the Pentagon wanted to reduce its reliance on an uncertain partner, Pakistan, to funnel most of its war supplies to Afghanistan. The cable noted that a new Chinese route would “provide an efficient and effective alternative to increasingly unstable Pakistani land routes, and could potentially cost less” than new supply lines crossing from Europe to Central Asia.


A cable sent in response three days later by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing reported that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had agreed to consider the idea but was noncommittal. Deng Hongbo, deputy director of the ministry’s Department of North American and Oceanic Affairs, “welcomed the proposal and promised the Chinese side would study the idea and respond as soon as possible,” the cable stated.


China kept mum about the overture for months. Then in June 2009, a Chinese official raised Washington’s hopes during a meeting with a U.S. diplomat in Kazakhstan.


The Chinese official dined with Richard E. Hoagland, then the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, at a revolving restaurant on the top of a high-rise hotel in Astana, the capital. The official, who preferred to meet in public places because he believed his own embassy was “thoroughly bugged,” said the Chinese government was “actively researching” the U.S. supply route proposal, according to a U.S. cable.


The official confided, however, that China’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry were divided on the subject and said it would be hard for some officials to swallow the idea of giving active support to a NATO military operation.


“My own personal opinion,” the official told Hoagland, “is that we will do the right thing and cooperate with NATO and the U.S. government.”


But the Pentagon’s hopes for cooperation were dashed several months later. China suspended military relations with the United States in January 2010 to protest the sale of $6 billion weapons to Taiwan.


Reader Comments
Pakistan is the best and the cheapest option according to a MNA's interview on TV in May since it costs US only Rs 40/- per container to move supplies from Karachi to Afghanistan. Can the US get a cheaper deal??? Instead of being grateful all they have done is to MUSCLE IN AND PUT THEIR BOOTS ON OUR THROATS... so much so that they want to risk Pakistan's security in order to defeat & exterminate Taliban.. US NEEDS A REALITY CHECK... AND FAST as it is running out of friends.

Dr Qureshi
United Kingdom
Mr sajid from Afghanistan we have tasted "friendship"of USA for 50 years.Before they leave, you will shelled like Tora Bora as they done in Iraq.

syed baqar ahsan
Pakistan was,is and will remain economically best option with American to maintain and sustain its troops in Afghanistan.Only what is required is change in attitude(of blackmailing,arm twisting,arrogance,double game approach and involvement of India)and positive approach towards Pakistan.There is no dictator in the pipeline to help American in this region any more.

syed baqar ahsan
Real Leaders only follow nation's interests, but Pakistan through its rulers made paralyzed to bow before others and chase other's target.

Waseem Abbas
dont push the contestent to the wall till it strikes.nato supply will not end the world .there are lot many option.who s playing this game.people must be asked, they in last will suffer.

USA sees its role in that region as liberator, stabilizer and harbinger of freedom. In my view, USA/NATO presence is the root cause of instability and violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan. Sooner USA/NATO forces leave Afghanistan and stop bombing Pakistan the situation would begin to normalize. Surprising, that China in return did not ask for the withdrawal of USA forces from the Korean Peninsula.

US made number of mistakes to Pakistan, making mujahedin & then ranaway,from dictatorial rules to bring in corrupt set up. today is a scary situation, US is not interested in groups who are terrifying Pak society & after Pak stability. US is doing a blunder let destabilizing working institutions in pakistan, while needed tune up. Afganistan to be build from zero, ok it is very excellent job they are doing building institutions but on other hand !!! why ??

China knew US was going to print money on recycled paper and pass it on to China and it was not worth the hassle.

Mir,Jehan Zeb ,MD
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