Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The War in Afghanistan Will Go on Beyond 2014

The Guardian reports today with regards the prospect of a Peace Deal in Afghanistan,

Western hopes of leaving Afghanistan within reach of a peace deal when Nato troops pull out in 2014 are dimming, with planned negotiations in Qatar at a stalemate and Pakistan cutting back on support for talks

There was never much change of Western troops withdrawing from Afghanistan as Western politicians from William Hague to Liam Fox in previous months have started changing the rhetoric of troop "withdrawal" to the phrase "drawdown"

One of the important unstated reasons for this reneging on the promise to withdraw troops lies in the energy geopolitics about which Western presence in Afghanistan has always been concerned with : that is providing the security environment for the TAPI pipeline.

This central war objective is crucially connected with offering an alternative the the rival IP pipeline that now seems set to go ahead. By preventing Pakistan accepting gas exports four times cheaper than via the TAPI pipeline, the US , Britain and France wish to hem in neighbouring Iran.

The initial justifications for the invasion of Afghanistan were posited on the pretext of "the war on terror" after 9/11. Arguments from "enlightened self interest" were advocated by "liberal interventionists" as part of a strategy of reconstructing and integrating Afghanistan into south east Asia.

The problem has been that the TAPI Pipeline geographically has to skirt around the mountainous Afghan regions to the east towards Kabul. The pipeline is scheduled to go through Helmland where most British troops losses have occurred.

There is much Orwellian doublethink in this strategy. While the Taliban were put forth as the "Islamofascist enemy", it has now been realised that no peace settlement in Afghanistan is possible without a deal with certain Taliban factions.

In fact, in 2011, US VP Joe Biden even opined the Taliban were no longer to be termed "terrorists".The regime in Kabul is not happy to bring in the Taliban as the struggle in such an impoverished "failed state" as Afghanistan will revolve around who gets a cut from the lucrative TAPI transit fees.

The strategy of at once trying to bring the Taliban to heel by Drone Bombing them into a position of submissions is utterly counterproductive ( not to mention inhumane and liable to lead many Pakistanis to rail against "Us Imperialism". Hence the rapprochement between it and Iran.

More broadly the Western idea of getting the TAPI pipeline constructed is part of a strategy to encircle and cripple the Iranian economy in a way that, irrespective of it's Islamist regime in Tehran, will only serve to alienate not just supporters of the regime but its opponents with Iran as well.

If the TAPI Pipeline is to be constructed ( and it looks as through there will be intractable problems in getting it built ), it will not necessarily even prevent the rival IP ( and possible its IPI extension into India and thence China ) being constructed.

The West needs to learn that it has to resort to pragmatic and cautious diplomacy that takes into account the reality of the competing Great Power interests over oil and gas routes in Central Asia. It increasingly lacks the financial resources to commit being drawn into the region indefinitely.

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