Pakistan is hosting a fully operational Strategic Support Force (SSF) command station of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is engaged in cyber-warfare, high-tech reconnaissance, electronic warfare and psychological warfare against assets of the United States.
This has been revealed in an annual report prepared by the US Department of Defense, which was presented to the US Congress earlier this week. The report is titled, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China”.
PLA’s Strategic Support Force (SSF) is a theatre command-level organisation, which was established to centralise PLA’s strategic space, cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare missions and capabilities. It was established in 2015 with the intention to improve PLA’s informationized warfare. Currently, it is headed by Lieutenant General Li Fengbiao, who succeeded the first SSF Commander, General Gao Jin in March 2019. He is an officer with more than 40 years of experience, much of which has been spent as a part of the PLA Air Force Airborne Corps.
It is pertinent to mention that as per the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Pakistan, which is now formally hosting a Chinese military station whose primary aim is to take out US assets, has received $350 million in aid from the US in 2019, $496 million in 2018, $901 million in 2017, $990 million in 2016, $1,123 million in 2015 and $974 million in 2014.
This huge amount of continuous aid in the last 5-6 years, which Pakistan has got from the US, is only second to what Afghanistan has received in the same period in the region. Effectively, from 2014 to 2019, Pakistan has received $4,834 million from the US as aid, or $967 million every year.
Pakistan has also been getting billions of dollars every year from China as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The corresponding figure for India, which is tackling Chinese expansion, despite no overt support from the United States, for 2019 was $90 million, $138 million in 2018, $136 million in 2017, $123 million in 2016, $114 million in 2015 and $120 million in 2014, which comes to $721 million or $144 million every year.
Apart from running a command station in Pakistan, the SSF is also running similar tracking stations in Namibia and Argentina.
As per the report, China has been nurturing Pakistan with the intention to decrease China’s reliance on transporting energy resources through strategic choke points such as the Strait of Malacca, which explains the reason behind China operating a fully functional command station specialising in sophisticated forms of warfare.
The SSF provides the PLA with strategic information support through space and network-based capabilities, including communications, navigation and positioning, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and the protection of military information infrastructure.
The report has further revealed that China is looking to build considerable amounts of military structure for the PLA in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, all of whom are India’s next-door neighbours, apart from in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan.
China is already operating a military base in Djibouti, which it operationalised in August 2017. The country is important, globally, because of its strategic location as it is located near some of the major shipping lanes and can be used to control access to the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.