The United States should stay in Afghanistan because China wants the country’s mineral wealth, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R–Ill.) argued Monday.
Afghans “want the United States to stiffen their spine alongside NATO,” he told the audience at The Hill’s virtual Future of Defense summit. “If we pull out and NATO pulls out, I think it’s pretty obvious it’s going to be pretty difficult for the Afghan government to stay.”
“You look at, frankly, the mineral wealth of Afghanistan, you see how much China wants that to strengthen their grip on the world,” Kinzinger added.
Afghanistan sits atop between $1 trillion and $3 trillion of minerals, including vital rare earth minerals, according to various estimates. The Afghan government recently sought to renegotiate a major mining concession it granted China a decade ago as tensions flared up between the two countries, Foreign Policy reported in January.
Kinzinger’s comments come only a few days after President Joe Biden said it will be “hard to meet” the Doha peace agreement with the Taliban, which requires that U.S. troops leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021.
“It is not my intention to stay there for a long time,” the president told reporters at a Thursday press conference. “We will leave. The question is when we leave.”
Kinziner, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, argued that the United States will be engaged in a “generational competition” with China.
Last week, the defense contractor Lockheed Martin cited competition with China as a reason why it should be able to get around antitrust laws.
Other officials have tried to use an alleged threat from China to justify longstanding U.S. military engagements in the region.
“You have to think in terms of the globe. You don’t have the luxury of focusing on any one theater,” argued General Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, in speech to the Middle East Institute last June. “One of the Wild West areas of competition is the [Middle East and Central Asia], where we see China moving in.”