“The Evolving Significance of Afghanistan in China’s Strategic Calculus: From an Insignificant ‘Backyard’ to a Consequential Geostrategic Hub” is the title of a paper written by Dr. Atal Ahmadzai for Security Nexus. This article addresses how Afghanistan may shift its strategic outlook to meet the shift in Beijing’s behavior, which is part of a broader strategy to expand and consolidate its influence in Central, South, and Western Asia.

Abstract: Paradoxical to its historic no-interest policy, China’s projection of strategic influence in Afghanistan has become increasingly visible. This shift in Beijing’s behavior is part of a broader strategy to expand and consolidate its influence in Central, South, and Western Asia. Such a policy revision in China’s strategic calculus transforms Afghanistan into a geo-strategic ‘backyard,’ that consolidates China’s influential position in the country. Additionally, China perceives the U.S. posture in Central Asia as a potential threat to its interests. These emerging rivalries reinforce Afghanistan’s geo-strategic significance, rendering it susceptible to a milieu of contested interests and engagements. For Afghanistan to reverse the historic curse of its geo-strategic location, it must overcome the pressure of competing big powers in the larger strategic arenas by focusing on domestic issues. Rather than historic and geographic determinism, structural changes through the development of its own resources, industries, and capacities should drive Afghanistan’s strategic outlook. To realize this vision, support from the U.S. is crucial to maintaining security and democratic institutions, promoting civic education, and creating a responsible and accountable political setting.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the DKI APCSS or the United States Government.

Security Nexus is a peer-reviewed, online journal published by the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

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