Tuesday, September 15, 2009

China Trains Afghans and Iraqis in Mine Clearing

Reading from the recent statement of "The two sides [US and China] pledged to increase coordination to jointly promote stability and development in Afghanistan and Pakistan. " by David B. Shear, Deputy Assistant Secretary
-- Statement before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, The Pacific and the Global Environment. It is reasonable to expected more PRC involvement in that region in the comming months.

Here are two different views by AP and NYT; each with a different emphasis.

China training Afghans, Iraqis in mine clearance

BEIJING — China's army is training Iraqi and Afghan soldiers to clear land mines, a sign of Beijing's desire to expand engagement with the two countries despite wariness over the presence of U.S. forces.

The two-month course is the first known instance of China offering such training to troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, which together are home to close to 200,000 U.S. troops.

Twenty officers from each country are being hosted by a People's Liberation Army academy in the eastern city of Nanjing, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. On graduation, they will return to their home countries with large amounts of mine detection and clearing equipment donated by China, Xinhua said.

The Defense Ministry did not reply to faxed questions and no telephone numbers were listed for the PLA's University of Science and Technology where the course was taking place.

Afghanistan remains heavily mined from the anti-Soviet guerrilla war and the internal conflict and U.S. invasion that followed. The devices kill and wound scores of people every year.

Large stretches of Iraq's borders still contain mine fields left over from the 1980s war against Iran, the 1991 invasion of Kuwait and the 2003 U.S. invasion. In addition, improvised explosive devices made from mines and other ordnance are a major killer of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians.

China opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and has remained aloof from multinational military operations to stabilize Afghanistan and combat a resurgent Taliban. Beijing is especially unhappy with the presence of American forces in Afghanistan, with which it shares a narrow border.

Beijing has pursued strong bilateral ties with Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan is the source of 95 percent of the world's heroin, and abuts China's volatile Xinjiang region where cheap Afghan heroin has fueled high levels of drug addiction. Chinese authorities also say radicals among the region's Uighur Muslim minority have trained in Taliban camps in Afghanistan.

Beijing's policy has been to promote Afghan stability through economic means and China was quick to offer aid following the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime. The U.S. has praised China's work on road building and fiber optic cable installation in Afghanistan along with a Chinese firm's plans to develop copper deposits that could create 10,000 jobs and annual revenues of $400 million for the Afghan government.

In Iraq, China's state petroleum companies are developing oil fields on which the government in Baghdad relies almost entirely for its revenues.

Gestures such as the de-mining training are a way to further build bridges and the course "showed the positive attitude of the Chinese government to assist the two countries' economic recovery and social reconstruction," Xinhua said.

China Trains Afghans and Iraqis in Mine Clearing


September 16, 2009

China Trains Afghans and Iraqis in Mine ClearingBy MARK McDONALDHONG KONG — The Chinese military said Tuesday that it had begun training 40 officers from Iraq and Afghanistan to clear and defuse land mines.China has trained 300 mine specialists from 15 countries over the past decade, its Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Most recently, in June, 20 Sudanese soldiers completed a six-week demining course in Nanjing.The training of foreign mine-clearing specialists appears to serve the dual purpose of assisting in China’s steadily expanding search abroad for oil and gas, including projects in Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Angola and Ethiopia, and burnishing China’s image in the world.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has described the demining course as “an important step in the Chinese government’s active participation in international mine-clearing,” although Beijing has refused to sign the international treaty to ban anti-personnel mines, also known as the Ottawa Treaty.The United States, Russia and India also have not signed the protocol.The training is expected to be of extra help to the Iraqis. In recent months, the country has suffered a surge in violent attacks by insurgents, especially in their use of improvised explosive devices that essentially function like high-powered land mines. Bomb-detection techniques and the defusing of explosives remain important skills for military units and security forces there.Tensions in Iraq have also increased over developments at the Adhab field, southeast of Baghdad. China National Petroleum Corporation, a state-owned company, has struck oil at the Ahdab field, in Wasit Province, but local dissatisfaction has led the Chinese company to worry about security even as it has already posted guards at the site.Angry that the Ahdab field has not delivered an expected boon of jobs and infrastructure development, local farmers have wrecked generators, punctured pipelines, severed electrical cables and intimidated Chinese workers.

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