The Chinese Communist Party used the botched American military withdrawal from Afghanistan to portray the U.S. as an unreliable international partner and a nation in decline, the Department of Defense found.
In a Tuesday report to Congress on national security developments involving China, the DOD noted that the CCP exploited the Afghanistan embarrassment to undermine the U.S. and its reputation.
“In 2021, the PRC employed multiple diplomatic tools in an attempt to erode U.S. and partner influence, such as highlighting the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and criticizing U.S.-backed security partnerships,” the department concluded.
In August 2021, the Biden administration presided over a messy military departure from Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to seize control of Kabul before U.S. forces and diplomats had vacated the country.
The withdrawal ended in chaos, with 13 American service men killed in a suicide bombing and desperate U.S. citizens and Afghan refugees scrambling to evacuate the war-torn country. As the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan, as many as 9,000 Americans were left in the country, according to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report released in February 2022.
In the summer of 2021, many Republicans argued that the Afghanistan disaster weakened the U.S. on the world stage and thereby empowered China. Many critics pointed out that China could view the Afghanistan disaster as an invitation to escalate aggression against Taiwan and move up the presumed timeline to invade and reconquer the self-governing island.
China has plans to expand its nuclear arsenal as part of its long-term goal for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, the report said.
Beijing also seized Covid-19 as a propaganda tool against the West, the report added, to “deflect culpability for the global pandemic” and boast domestic success on containing the virus through its extreme zero-Covid policy, which seeks to snuff out any transmission through dramatic testing and movement restrictions.