Last week, Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, traveled to China for his first state visit abroad. Mr. Ghani’s calculation — that Beijing could offset the decline in American and Western support — creates a long-term strategic conundrum: Can Afghanistan attract Chinese investment and security assistance while avoiding the perils of excessive dependency on Beijing?
Mr. Ghani’s outreach to China is driven by a combination of short-term realities and long-term goals. The Western drawdown comes at a time when the Afghan government is neither fiscally self-sufficient nor capable of defeating the Pakistan-backed Taliban insurgency. In the short term, there is little alternative to international assistance to keep the Afghan state afloat.
In the longer term, however, Afghanistan hopes to leverage two of the country’s assets to achieve genuine stability and self-reliance: its natural resources and its strategic location, wedged as it is between Iran, Pakistan, China and the Central Asian states. The development of Afghan
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