Sunday, 26 September 2010

Afghanistan's Pipeline Develpments, Minerals and Systemic Corruption


The problem with most journalism on Afghanistan is the way the severe problems facing it have been consistently separated in to neat packages: Afghanistan is not progressing towards being a liberal democracy and nationhood due to Corruption, or else the Role of Opium's, Women's Liberation ,the ongoing "War on Terror" and so on.

Yet increasingly the unifying factor that explains why the international military and aid "community" is there is "Development" and by that it is understood but never mentioned that this is tied together with the building of the TAPI pipeline. The geopolitical reality is seldom mentioned in the media in Europe or the USA.

Throughout August and September 2010, media channels and business journals elsewhere have regularly been reporting on the developments surrounding the TAPI pipeline, an essential part of NATO geostrategy in constructing a rival to the IPI pipeline, thus driving a wedge between Iran and nations such as China.

Those in denial about the centrality of the the TAPI Pipeline have continually argued that just because Turkmenistan has sought to get it built, that this does not mean it will go ahead and cannot be a central war aim. Something flatly contradicted by the evidence.

Just three days ago and shortly following Turkmenistan's decision to push the other countries that signed the pipeline construction deal in 2008 along with the Asian Development Bank ( the majority of the shares of which are controlled by Western nations like the US, Canada and Australia ), Oil And Gas Eurasia wrote,
Afghanistan will be able to protect the safety of the largest economic project in the region - the TAPI gas pipeline, which is meant to pump gas from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, Afghanistan Mining and Ores Minister Vakhidullah Shakhrani said during a news conference in Kabul Wednesday.

Shakhrani said that in areas where the pipeline would cross territory controlled by the Taliban, "The pipeline will be buried in the ground and local communities (tribes) will be paid to protect it", he said.

"This large project is very important to Afghanistan - we will be paid hundreds of millions of dollars a year for gas transit and this will open huge possibilities for creating new jobs, both when building the pipeline and after it is launched", the minister said.
Such facts allow understanding of the agenda underlying Arbabzadar's assertion that,
Last week's parliamentary elections in Afghanistan revealed a society in transition, displaying signs of genuine democratic progress as well its opposite: persistent sociopolitical stagnation. But progress and backlash against it have traditionally co-existed in Afghanistan.

True, but it has been believed that the key to reversing that, giving people a stake in identifying with Western hegemony in Afghanistan and Central Asia will be getting a flourishing economy and that the TAPI pipeline is essential in creating an energy corridor and generating millions in transit fees.

Yet as the scale of the corruption shows, the elites coalitioned by the US are all jockeying for the position and influence to grab control of that revenue. And there is no necessary reason why the "outs" will not turn to opium cultivation to maintain their interests and wealth.

When the progress of TAPI pipeline is mentioned, as it has been by Reuters numerous times, it only gets circulated in Asian media. Mention of it in the Guardian or other mainstream media is officially verboten. Indeed when the prime minister of Germany recently mentioned TAPI he was forced to resign.

Moreover when it is reported no connection is made between it and the continuation of the war in Afghanistan. Oddly enough, pipeline deniers seem to ignore the evidence coming from the Afghan government about the important of the TAPI pipeline,

*Pipeline, valued at $3.3 bln, to run through Taliban areas

*Minister says tight security will be in place

*Confident project will attract foreign investment

By Emma Graham-Harrison

KABUL, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Afghanistan will secure a planned international gas pipeline through the Taliban heartland by burying sections underground and paying local communities to guard it, the mining minister said on Wednesday.

Wahidullah Shahrani also said he was confident the project -- valued at $3.3 billion and which would run from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India (TAPI) -- could secure international funding.
It already has official backing. The ADB is dominated by Western prospectors. Much of the "progressive propaganda" is about building confidence in the success of Afghanistan to this end. The word "stable and secure" mean secure enough for the pipeline which will run run through Helmand where 106 British troops died.

Naturally, the children, that is to say the electorate in the UK and USA or Germany or elsewhere in NATO nations , cannot be allowed to know this. The TAPI pipeline can only be an issue for investors in the business section. So the journalism has shifted along with official propaganda.

The Reuters despatch was buried in the business and energy new section. This important development is never allowed to intrude into the consciousness of the news reading public in the West. Not least because of the way liberal interventionist platitudes predominate over looking at geopolitical realities.
"This huge project is very important to Afganistan," Shahrani told a news conference in the capital, Kabul.

"We will be earning a transit fee of hundreds of millions of dollars each year, it will create tremendous job opportunities for the people of Afghanistan during and after the construction, and the major population centres along the pipeline will benefit from the gas supplies," he said.
Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ordered that the project be completed and operational by 2014, one of Shahrani's aides told Reuters, so the four countries are working at top speed to complete preliminaries before seeking investors.
The pressure is on also as democratic governments in the West want closure on Afghanistan and getting the TAPI pipeline going so that they can replace NATO troops in Helmand with Afghan troops, what is called "Afghanistanisation".

Reuters reported,
The pipeline route takes it through areas of extreme instability. In Afghanistan it would snake from western Herat, near the border with Iran, through the southern Taliban heartlands of Helmand and Kandahar.

The central government has only a tenuous grip on much of this territory, despite the presence of tens of thousands of foreign troops meant to bolster security.

This flatly contradicts what Michael Williams reported last weekend in The Guardian about the mission of British troops in Helmand being a success in defeating most of the Taliban in the region.
But Shahrani said he was confident Afghanistan could secure the pipeline. Pakistan, Afghanistan and India are all hungry for more energy but are at times uneasy neighbours.

"The government will provide security along the line, which in most places will be 2 metres underground," Shahrani said.

Naturally, there is no mention of direct Western involvement in pushing for the TAPI pipeline. No mention of the fact Australia wants LNG from India as a geostrategic aim nor that the ADB is made up mostly from Western intererests and not from Asian nations.
The four countries, which are currently being advised by the Asian Development Bank, aim to set up a consortium of international investors. They are currently working with a transaction adviser, Shahrani's aide said.
There is no mention of who this "transaction adviser" actually is. Nor where he comes from. Arbabzadar thinks that such linkages between corrupt Afghan elites and US democracy promotion is merely "ironical". Perhaps that it is merely a logical consequence of policy is unthinkable
Observers have also noted the conspicuous presence of a new class of wealthy Afghans who owe their wealth to reconstruction and contracts with the US army. Members of this new business class have been observed trying to buy votes, either by paying henchmen to stuff ballot boxes or by entering into deals with community leaders.

It is highly ironic that the same class that is the greatest financial beneficiary of the US mission is also the one that is undermining democracy through corruption and in doing so, damaging the US's reputation in Afghanistan.

What an ironic world we live in.

On the Theme of Corruption

Shahrani himself represents the way that the TAPI pipeline is inextricably part of NATO's mission and the manner in which the connection between corrupt Afghan elites and the US and NATO cannot separated in the way often done. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan website states,
In early January 2010, Mr. Wahidullah Shahrani assumed the role of Minister of Mines, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Mr. Shahrani was a key interlocutor for the international financial institutions and bilateral donors. His notable achievements in economic and fiscal reform are recognized by the international community.

He was the Alternate Governor for the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the World Bank. He was also the focal point of Afghanistan with all the major International development Agencies such as USAID, DFID, CIDA, BMZ, SIDA etc.

Immediately prior to those roles, Mr. Shahrani served as the First Deputy Governor of the central bank (Da Afghanistan Bank) where he was responsible for monetary policy, banking supervision, market operations as well as Alternate Governor of Afghanistan at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The connection between the Afghan elites, the West and corruption has been anything other than "ironic". True, Shahrani was brought in to reduce corruption. Yet the colossal sell off of Afghanistan's hard mineral wealth to the West and China inevitably leads to pathological struggles for control.
Any major mining efforts would be coordinated through Afghanistan’s ministry of mines, which some US officials have described as incompetent: There are no major mines operating in Afghanistan today. It also has a reputation as one of the country’s most corrupt institutions.
As Al Jazeera reported in The Great Game is set to get a new twist in the race to tap the country's mineral wealth ( Gregg Carlstrom ) 15 June 2010
Wahidullah Shahrani, the current minister of mines, took office just five months ago. His predecessor, Mohammad Ibrahim Adel, was accused last year of accepting a $30 million bribe from a Chinese mining firm in exchange for a contract to develop the lucrative Aynak copper field.

Before that, in 2006, Adel was accused of accepting a bribe from Mahmoud Karzai, a brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, in exchange for control of a cement factory.
The Wall Street Journal reported in January that the mining ministry postponed awarding a major iron ore deposit in central Afghanistan. The report suggested that the bidding process had been marred by corruption.

The Pentagon’s announcement is likely to set off a scramble for Afghanistan’s minerals, particularly among its neighbors. China and India both have extensive economic ties with Afghanistan, and a huge need for raw minerals. But with no history of large-scale mining operations, poor security, and corrupt oversight, there are huge obstacles to the Afghan people seeing any benefit from their natural resources.

.....political scientists have long warned of the "resource curse": countries with extensive natural resources often develop far more slowly than those without.

"The particularly corrosive effect that the theft of these resources can have is to make politicians who were powerful and possibly corrupt even less accountable to the people," said Mike Davis, a London-based analyst with the activist group Global Witness. "It increases their capacity to do everything from rig elections to building up militias."

"It's really like pouring petrol on a fire that's already out of control," he said.
What this points to is that the Afghanistan War was flawed from the beginning, an attempt to promote "Democratic Geopolitics" where the geopolitics and the need for resources and greed have appeared to have proved the mantra of Liberal Humanitarianism to be a propaganda rationalisation.

1 comment:

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