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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/13/21

U.S. empire stokes Uyghur terrorism in Afghanistan with eye on fomenting new violence in Xinjiang

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It's no surprise that amid Biden's optical "retreat" from Afghanistan, he's expanding the presence of private mercenaries within the country while keeping intelligence operatives and special-operations forces. These types of imperialist agents, with the covert and unaccountable nature of their work, are perfect for the task that the U.S. empire seeks to carry out in Afghanistan in the coming years: assist Uyghur terrorists with fomenting violence that can keep China from filling the power vacuum left in Washington's wake, and that may spill over across the border that Afghanistan shares with China.

Hints of such a plot are apparent in how much Biden's Afghanistan strategy leans onto proxies, and in how these proxies are supposed to be tasked with holding back the rise of Washington's rival superpowers in the region. As The Grayzone's Jeremy Kuzmarov has written about why the mercenaries, spooks, and special ops are staying:

The U.S. ruling establishment's greatest fear is that a complete U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan might result in the U.S. losing a strategic foothold to its main geopolitical rivals, China and Russia... As a previous CovertAction Magazine article documented, the current Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani is largely a creation of the United States. Its military is funded by the United States at a cost of around $4 billion per year. This support is going to continue--unless Congress cuts it off--alongside large-scale U.S. foreign aid programs that amount to nearly $1 billion per year. The U.S. wants to keep Ghani in power, or replace him with another proxy that can help it win the geopolitical competition with Russia and China, which is little different from the 19th-century "great game" between Great Britain and Czarist Russia.

Since China and Russia are strengthening ties with the Taliban, Washington has only one route to turn to: cultivate a terrorist group whose entire purpose is to stoke the violent flames of Uyghur separatism within northwestern China, and to sabotage the possibility of a stable Afghanistan that would allow for China to make greater inroads within the country. This proxy exists in the form of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), whose current rise is being helped by the deteriorating hold of Afghanistan's U.S.-installed regime. It's clear that Washington is trading one proxy for another, because it's clear that the ETIM and its terrorist activities have the underhanded backing of the U.S. empire.

What other conclusion can one come to after reviewing the events in Afghanistan from the last year, and how they fit into Washington's larger escalations of asymmetrical warfare against China? Despite the ETIM having been designated by the UN Security Council as a terrorist organization in 2002 for its ties to Al Qaeda, in 2020 the U.S. took the group off of its list of terrorist groups. This decision, which was strongly condemned by China, has since led to the ETIM undergoing a great rise in its manpower, weaponry, and logistical and financial resources. As the Asia Times has reported:

Curiously, the former Donald Trump administration removed ETIM from America's terror list in November 2020, saying at the time there was "no credible evidence" that ETIM still exists. As the Taliban surges north in the wake of America's troop withdrawal, it seems likely only a matter of time before the militant group overruns Kabul and its US-backed government, and establishes in its place a new "Islamic Emirate", as it has repeatedly said it aims to do. A Taliban takeover, analysts and observers believe, will open new space for groups like ETIM to recruit and radicalize Uighur youth, many of whom are already reportedly deeply disaffected by reports of Beijing's Uighur "vocational camps" and authoritarian control of Muslim religious practices in Xinjiang. For Beijing, however, the concern is not merely the spread of radical ideas among Uighur Muslims in neighboring Afghanistan. Rather, it is the threat a resurgence of extremism could pose to its strategic Belt and Road Initiative in the region, not least in Pakistan.

Unlike the government that Washington has backed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, which has always struggled to compete with the Taliban for mass support due to its lack of Islamic orthodoxy, this new imperialist proxy has the vigor of a fighting force that is motivated by convictions--rather than by endless shipments of CIA cash, as has been the case for the Afghani government. Washington's tool for influencing the ETIM isn't bribery, but rather the far more powerful motivator of propaganda.

Those reports of supposed "human rights abuses" against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang all originate from deeply flawed studies by the far-right Christian propagandist Adrian Zenz, and from opportunistic Uyghur individuals who've been paid to fabricate atrocity stories. They serve to motivate the ETIM's members to commit violence under the mistaken belief that they're fighting for their nation's "liberation." The hope of the CIA--which is of course behind all of this inflammatory agitprop--is that the Uyghur population more broadly will come to share the ETIM's dangerously distorted view of the Chinese government's relationship with the Uyghurs.

In addition to this mind-virus of Sinophobic hatred that the U.S. is using to galvanize support for the ETIM, Biden's hidden long-term army of operatives within Afghanistan have ample ways to help the terrorist group continue to grow. Throughout Washington's attempt to use jihadists as proxy forces to carry out regime change in Syria, U.S. forces have directly assisted ISIS by fighting as the Islamic State's air force, by using a secret deal to grant a safe passage to ISIS members, by providing sophisticated anti-tank weapons to ISIS and other terrorist groups, by supplying ISIS and Al Qaeda with surface-to-air weapons, and by using Turkey and Saudi Arabia as proxies to funnel support towards ISIS.

These kinds of tactics are going to be replicated within Afghanistan for the benefit of the ETIM, especially the tactic of utilizing U.S. allies in the region as proxies that assist the terrorists; Israel may become tasked with helping the ETIM in this way, given that Israel recently abandoned its neutral former position on the U.S.-China cold war by joining in on Washington's denunciations of China's fictitious Uyghur "genocide."

Biden's privatization of the Afghanistan war is exactly what's needed to create the environment for such a dirty war against China. Trump's pardoning last year of Blackwater mercenaries who've massacred unarmed civilians in Iraq set a precedent for private armies around the world, whether they're wielded by corporations or by the U.S. military, to act with impunity. Assisting terrorists will be quite easy for these types of forces to hide from public scrutiny, and to do so while avoiding legal consequences. It's the ideal approach for carrying out the military doctrine explained by Biden's Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who recommends replacing the traditional Bush-era invasions with "discreet, small-scale sustainable operations, maybe led by special forces, to support local actors... In ending the endless wars I think we have to be careful to not paint with too broad a brush stroke."

This plot to "end" our twenty-year war while actually making it so that it's just getting started comes in the context of an increasingly desperate imperialist effort to destabilize and Balkanize China. For decades, the U.S. has been funding a pipeline of Uyghur separatist radicalization, one that stretches from Syria to Xinjiang and that is facilitated in partnership with Turkey. But since 2017, the terrorist attacks that this campaign aims to create have halted, at least within Xinjiang. This is both because of China's deradicalization and vocational training for Uyghurs, and because of the fact that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has been tangibly improving the living conditions of the Uyghurs along with every other ethnic group within China. The richer China becomes, the more out of reach Washington's fantasies of a civil war and breakaway state in Xinjiang become.

The imperialists hope that by sanctioning Xinjiang over the fabricated "human rights abuse" charges, subsequently depriving the Uyghurs of jobs (as they've so far succeeded at doing), and flooding Xinjiang and the surrounding areas with inflammatory claims about Uyghur persecution, they'll bring back Xinjiang's bygone era of terrorism. This propaganda may work on the ETIM's members, but the Uyghurs within China can point to lived experiences, which show that socialism and freedom from U.S. control are doing good things for their communities. This is the disconnect between imperialist propaganda and material reality that weakens Washington's drive towards undoing the Communist Party of China's gains within Xinjiang.

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Rainer Shea is writing articles that counter the propaganda of the capitalist/imperialist power establishment, and that help move us towards a socialist revolution. Donate to me on Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=11988744

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