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International relations

Afghan pullout raises fears in US of China's 'unfettered access'

Pentagon admits 'number of countries' have potential to exercise influence

NEW YORK -- As the U.S. military's withdrawal from Afghanistan continues, disparate voices in Washington, including some from within the Biden administration, have begun to admit that there could be serious consequences for the region after the Americans leave, including China, Russia and Iran filling a power vacuum created by what the Pentagon calls its "strategic retrograde" from the war-torn country.

"It's clear that there's a number of different countries around the region that do have interests and that have the potential to exercise malign influence in Afghanistan," said David Helvey, acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday.

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