Thursday, 16 December 2010

Why are 100,000 US Troops Fighting in Afghanistan ? It's All In the Pipeline.

The reason Obama will not explain why US troops are coming home in coffins and so much blood and treasure has been sunk in Afghanistan is obvious: the Afghanistan War is being fought to build the TAPI pipeline and this is not seen as the correct narrative to market as "public diplomacy"

Simon Tisdall writing for The Guardian today merely confirms the fact that the task of those in the media is to frame the debate in accordance with the narrow confines set by the powerful which never encompasses the real reasons why Afghanistan has now dragged on for almost a decade since Bush's invasion in late 2001
Veteran foreign policy analyst Leslie Gelb, writing in the Daily Beast, said Obama can no longer persuasively answer the basic question: why are 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan, at an annual cost of $113bn?".

Afghanistan is no longer a vital interest of the United States but continuing the war there tears at our own nation's very vitals," Gelb said, arguing that international terrorism now has many bases, including Stockholm and London, and is no longer centred in the Hindu Kush...

Given the war has not been about the Global War on Terror ( GWOT ) for some time, the remaining reason for "staying the course" is to defeat the Taliban in Helmland through which the TAPI pipeline will run through. When British troops were coming home in body bags, no attempt was made to tell the truth about this.

In previous months the governments of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have been negotiating the finalised pipeline deal. The BBC reported on December 11 2010 ( Turkmen natural gas pipeline Tapi to cross Afghanistan )
A deal has been struck on building a 1,700km (1,050m) pipeline to carry Turkmen natural gas across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. The Tapi project aims to feed energy-deprived South Asian markets and transit fees may benefit Afghanistan.
The transit fees are intended to benefit Afghanistan and transform it into an energy bridge. This has been obvious for long.

Less obvious is why the media has been so unwilling to discuss the pipeline which was a key objective from the outset of the war after Hamid Karzai, a former advisor to Unocal whose minister for reconstruction, Amin Farhang was candid about the West's backing for the pipeline.

Lutz Kleveman's The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia, written back in 2003, reported that Farhang said,
"the pipeline project is a done deal. Some big oil companies want to get into business with us. ...Finally, after years of waiting Afghanistan will become an important transit country in Central Asia"
TAPI was posited back then as a means of generating 12,000 jobs and up to $300m in transit fees per year. As transport routes through the south Caucasus remained risky and Iran was considered an implacable opponent, the pipeline offered what was believed to be a viable alternative.

This was as true under Bill Clinton as under George Bush, whose Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad as Kleveman emphasised "had previously worked for Unocal on a an elaborate risk analysis for the Afghan pipeline".

The continuities in US foreign policy since the 1990s to 2010 are more striking than any real change which has lain more in the nature of the tactics. Despite what pipeline deniers argue, the USA could not have done a deal with the Taliban as it did harbour Al Qaida.

Yet the Taliban and Al Qaida were never the same. When Unocal placed its plans on hold, right wing think tanks such as the Rand Corporation condemned the Taliban. The 9/11 attacks in 2001 gave the necessary pretext to destroy Al Qaida and get the pipeline built.

Shortly before 9/11 a US Department of Energy Report cited "Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from central Asia to the Arabian Sea"

These vital energy interests were never going to be rejected by Obama. An important foreign policy advisor has been Zbigniew Brzezinski who played an instrumental part in energy politics and who has always seen the geostrategic imperative of US foreign policy to be dominating Central Asia.

The need to secure this route explains why NATO troops are still there. As EurasiaNet reported,
Gran Hewad, a political researcher with the Afghan Analysts Network, said the security challenge would be significant, but added that Kabul might have the political will and a powerful economic incentive to keep the Taliban away from TAPI.

“The route through Herat and Kandahar is not so difficulty for the Afghan National Security Forces to control,” Hewad claimed. “US military progress will likely improve along the route, it's a very strategic interest, and support from the local population population can also increase.”
On December 18 2010 the US formally came out in support of the TAPI deal, as reported in Business Journal ( US says pleased with TAPI agreement )
The US has said it is pleased with a recent agreement on an ambitious four-nation gas pipeline involving India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, hoping that the multi-billion-dollar project would change the face of the economic condition of the region.

"We are pleased with the initial agreements that have been signed on the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) project," the State Department said.

"It is important to remember that pipelines are long-term projects with long-term horizons, and that the immense effort involved could produce long-term benefits for Turkmenistan and the region," it said.

TAPI's route may serve as a stabilising corridor, linking neighbours together in economic growth and prosperity, it said.

"The road ahead is long for this project, but the benefits could be tremendous," the State Department said in response to a question.

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