Ghani, Xi pledge robust partnership

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attend a signing ceremony in Beijing on Tuesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attend a signing ceremony in Beijing on Tuesday.

BEIJING: Afghanistan and China pledged a long-term partnership Tuesday as new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani began a four-day visit while NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw from his country.

Ghani, once a US-based academic, was sworn in as Afghanistan’s new head of state last month in the Asian nation’s first democratic transfer of power.

“We look at China as a strategic partner, in the short-term, medium-term, long-term and very long-term,” he told President Xi Jinping at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Xi’s “vision” for the continent had opened “not just a new chapter for Asia, but an entirely new book”, he said.

Hailing Ghani as “an old friend of the Chinese people”, Xi said he was prepared to work toward “a new era of cooperation in China-Afghanistan relations” to “take development to a new depth and breadth”.

China shares only a 47-mile border with Afghanistan’s remote far northeast, but has a keen interest in its neighbor’s mineral resources.

It has already secured major oil and copper-mining concessions in Afghanistan, which is believed to have more than $1 trillion worth of mineral resources, according to studies by the US Geological Survey.

But all NATO combat troops will leave the country by December, leaving Afghan troops and police to battle Taleban insurgents on their own.

China will provide 1.5 billion yuan ($245 million) in “free assistance” to Afghanistan over the next three years, foreign ministry official Kong Xuanyou told reporters after Tuesday’s ceremony.

Kong said Ghani expressed “readiness and staunch support” in the struggle against “terrorist forces” — which Beijing blames for a string of attacks in its far-western Xinjiang region, the homeland of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.

Gunmen kill 2 cops

An Afghan police chief said gunmen attacked a checkpoint in the western city of Herat, killing two police officers.

The chief of the criminal investigation division of Herat province, Ghul Agha Hashim, says seven civilians, including three women, were also wounded when two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on the checkpoint at around 2 p.m.

 
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