Monday, 2 May 2011

Bin Laden's Demise, Afghanistan and the War.

Jonathan Steele has written on Bin Laden's assassination by the CIA and US special forces that,
Osama bin Laden's killing is a huge victory for the Obama administration and it will go a long way towards giving closure to Americans. But will it also revive the 10-year-old question about the wisdom of the war in Afghanistan, in which half as many Americans have already died as Bin Laden killed on 9/11, not to mention the many more Afghan civilians who have lost their lives in the attack that George W Bush launched on their country in October 2001?

Bin Laden's haven in Taliban country was a short-term marriage of convenience, which the Bush administration made no real effort to break other than by its rhetorical demand that the Taliban hand him over or else they would be punished.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban were never always so tied together and often hostile to each other. Now that Bin Laden has been disappeared into the depths of the ocean or "buried at sea", the "war on terror" pretext for continuing involvement in Afghanistan is going to be harder to maintain.

Though the Taliban have sought to use Bin Laden's liquidation as a reason to up the ante with its struggle with the USA and NATO in Afghanistan, the continued killing of civilians by drone bombers and continuation of a futile war that cannot be won will continue to give the Taliban a level of support.

The need to defeat the Taliban permanently in Helmand and the dogged struggle against NATO in areas such as Helmand reflects the underlying geopolitics of the Afghan War: the need to secure the region in order to facilitate the construction of the TAPI pipeline.

In recent months Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders have given numerous hints that they would be willing to break formally with al-Qaida as part of a peace deal that involved a full departure of US troops from Afghanistan. Will Barack Obama now finally put his weight behind exploring that option?
This is unlikely precisely because US troops will not depart until the Afghan security forces are trained to guard the pipeline agreed between the regional powers which will bring gas from Turkmenistan through to India and forms part of the US strategy of hemming in Iranian influence from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is not exactly a "war of choice": it is a geostrategic imperative if the West is to gain a commanding stake in controlling the supplies of oil and gas from Eurasia. The fact is that whilst Iraq was a oil grab, Afghanistan is a more sophisticated gambit in the New Great Game.A recent update from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis states,

Despite problems, if the pipeline does succeed in being constructed, it will be due to the US’ uncompromising support for the project. While Washington’s raison d’etre is that it will help stabilise Afghanistan as well as assist the country in its development, not least by allowing it to earn around USD 300 million per annum in transit fees, it would also allow the Central Asian countries to find an alternate market in the east and thereby lessen their dependence on Russia as well as feed the energy-starved South Asian nations.

However, the US’ main objective is to ensure that the IPI project is effectively killed, thus denying Tehran much-needed revenues for its nuclear programme that will accrue from selling gas to an expanding South Asian market. This is not the first time that the US has pushed through a pipeline project which had appeared unfeasible both from political and business perspectives.

In 2005, despite substantial opposition by business and political circles in both the US and the Caspian states, the hugely expensive and logistically challenging BTC pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Ceyhan in Turkey, transiting a fractious Georgia, was built by a 11-member consortium led by BP under pressure from the US government.

The reason: Washington was seeking to provide a route that would not only circumvent transiting through Russian territory and break Moscow’s stranglehold over the European gas market, but would also assist in diminishing Russia’s strategic hold over the Caspian region.To overcome the reluctance of business in underwriting such a costly project and whose economic viability was questionable, the US government made financing from government agencies, such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the US Export-Import Development Bank, available.
Naturally, the reading public in the UK watching body bags of troops coming home to Wootton Bassett are never allowed to get any real sense of why Britain and NATO are out there and will not be as the electorate, that is the children, must be fed easily digestible sound bites about wars on terror and opium"

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