WASHINGTON — A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denied reports Tuesday that Beijing is discussing a deal with the Taliban to hand over a former U.S. air base in Afghanistan.
“I can tell you this is purely fake news,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, referring to media reports that the Taliban could hand over Bagram Airfield to Beijing following the American departure from Afghanistan last week.
Bagram, about 35 miles north of Kabul, was the largest American base in Afghanistan for nearly two decades before the U.S. turned it over to Afghan Security Forces on July 2 as part of its withdrawal from the country that started May 1.
Six weeks later, on Aug. 15, the Afghan government forces surrendered the air base to the Taliban, which took control of the nation’s capital the same day.
The reports of a possible deal followed former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s comments that “we need to watch China” during an appearance on Fox News last week.
“I think you are going to see China make a move for Bagram Air Force Base,” she said. “I think they are also making a move in Afghanistan and trying to use Pakistan to get stronger to go against India.”