Report: China to ink postwar strategic pact with Afghanistan

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are expected to finalize an overarching postwar pact that will include security cooperation and other bilateral agreements this week, according to Reuters.

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It remains unclear whether Chinese troops would be heading to Afghanistan under the terms of the pending deal. A small handful of Chinese advisers have been in country, assisting local Afghan forces in counternarcotics operations.

That said, China has not participated in the war effort, despite "established significant strategic and economic interests in post-Taliban Afghanistan," according to a congressional report released in April.

Leaders in the People's Liberation Army considered sending troops to Afghanistan in a "non-combat role" back in 2009, the report noted.

However, Afghan officials remain tight-lipped regarding the agreement, which will be signed during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit set for this week in Beijing.

"The president of Afghanistan will be meeting the president of China in Beijing and what will happen is the elevation of our existing, solid relationship to a new level, to a strategic level," Janan Musazai, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry, told Reuters on Sunday.

News of the deal comes a month after Washington and Kabul agreed to terms on a similar postwar deal outlining future American involvement in the country after U.S. troops leave in 2014.

American commanders on the ground plan to hand over all security operations to Afghan forces by 2013, paving the way for a complete U.S. withdrawal the following year. Nearly 32,000 American soldiers are scheduled to come home this summer.

While the new Chinese-Afghan pact will entrench the Asian superpower deeper into a postwar Afghanistan, it is only the latest effort by Beijing to solidify its ties to the country.

Between 2002 to 2009, China has sunk more than $300 million in economic aid to Afghanistan as it assesses "the potential for new investments in such sectors as mining and energy," according to the April report by Congress.

Beijing has taken similar actions in resource-rich countries in Africa as a way to secure new energy sources and raw materials to support its rapidly growing military and economic power.

China’s growing involvement in Afghanistan policy is "primarily to secure access to Afghan minerals and resources but perhaps also to help its ally, Pakistan," according to the report. Pakistan has long claimed strategic interests in neighboring Afghanistan.