Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Bombing at Kunduz: The Afghanistan War and the Geopolitics of the TAPI Pipeline Continued.

It is a common misconception of radical journalists that the Afghanistan War is just another meaningless war that reflects militarism or machismo. The trend towards using drone missile strikes and aerial bombing as part of a military-industrial complex which has its own pathological momentum.

To an extent, it is true. Wars using air power have become offered by vain politicians in Western democracies demanding 'something must be done' about the evil of ISIS or the Taliban to keep them and the world more secure. The though seldom occurs that the Afghanistan War is a militant progressive cause.

The conception of Afghanistan, as one advocated and defended by liberals who became more conservative or warmongers and capitulated to the appeals of power, is a myth. Those who backed it back in 2001 and thereafter were left liberals who saw the West as having a duty to save the Afghan people.

This position was best stated by Christopher Hitchens. He criticised 'anti-war' protesters who drew attention to the West's Cold war support for the mujahedeen as a reason not to intervene by arguing that the wrongs created by cynical Cold War power politics made it all the more a reason to put them right.

Many anti-war protesters in Britain oppose Western Power because it makes them feel good and virtuous as well as more intelligent than the silly warmongering elites who keep bombing and believing they can defeat terrorists. On the accidental NATO bombing of a hospital, run by Médecins Sans Frontières, Monbiot writes,
'The lies and euphemisms add insult to the crime. Nato’s apparent indifference to life and truth could not fail to infuriate – perhaps to radicalise – people who are currently uninvolved in conflict in Afghanistan. There are no clear objectives in these wars, or if there are, they shift from month to month...14 years into the fighting in Afghanistan, after repeated announcements of victory or withdrawal, military action appears only to have replaced the old forms of brutality and chaos with new ones. And yet it continues. War appears to have become an end in itself..
What Monbiot means is that the Orwellian language of 'collateral damage' makes him more outraged than if NATO spokesmen had used words such as 'bombed' and 'killed' and, being so annoyed by this use of callous language, he could understand why people not involved with the Taliban or ISIS may join them.

NATO's robotic language makes no difference to most Afghans. Constant drone strikes and "collateral damage", as well as the shady geopolitical games played by regional and global players as regards Afghanistan, ensure the Taliban, and increasingly ISIS, have their uses in brutal power struggles. Death is a way of life there.

The Afghanistan War's official aims have shifted but that hardly means that there are no real underlying objectives. For a start it was officially supposed to have ended at the end of 2014. The Western media has recycled that official line, even though the US and NATO maintain a huge military presence based at Bagram.

After 14 years the NATO involvement in Afghanistan has made little difference to the warring land and things have barely improved. The reason the war in Afghanistan drags on, for all the official propaganda about "drawdown" , a word that does not mean withdrawal, is the geopolitical benefits of the TAPI pipeline and access to rare earths.

Afghanistan is a strategic land bridge between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent and a gas pipeline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan and India would bring these nations together and freeze out Iran's rival IP pipeline which would draw an energy hungry increasingly populated Pakistan into Iran's orbit.

US State Department officials have gone quieter about the TAPI pipeline and the New Silk Route, a shift that may well have been confirmed by the rapprochement with Iran over the nuclear deal. The persistence of the Taliban and China's influence in Turkmenistan and SE Asia have made it more difficult to realise.

The upsurge in NATO activity against the Taliban in Kunduz that led to the bombing of the hospital reflects not only the obvious need to defend the Kabul government but also not to have the TAPI pipeline's construction taken off an urgent agenda while Russia's Gazprom and China get behind the IP pipeline.

As sanctions on Iran are set to be lifted, Pakistan and India's energy shortages have became critical. As Washington needed Tehran to help the Iraqi government roll back ISIS, so the US and NATO are all the more determined to thwart Russia which opposes the TAPI pipeline as a threat to its control over the Central Asian energy market.

With Iran planning to press on with the pipeline eastwards, the US has been trying to drum up support along with India for the TAPI pipeline construction to be expedited. Rohullah Osmani, a  former Director General in the Afghan Government and International Security scholar at John Hopkins University writes,
'Modi’s visit to Turkmenistan followed by Berdimuhamedov’s trip to Kabul to discuss economic cooperation, specifically the TAPI project, suggests that the pipeline project is again moving – this time with a firm commitment from all parties including a seller commitment, buyer’s readiness, and a contractor with the right financing. Although an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program has been reached, it will take time for the sanctions to be lifted and for Iranian gas to flood back onto the market. Nevertheless, the Iran deal has created a sense of urgency and a breakthrough for the TAPI project.' ( my italics )
So Russia has sought to tilt away from its historical ally India towards Pakistan. Delhi and Washington have recently grown closer as part of a US strategy of countering Chinese influence in Asia and trying to gain greater control over energy routes to the Middle Kingdom so as to contain its power political ambitions.

As China invests in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as it would enable China to receive Iranian oil and natural gas through Iran and Pakistan via the port of Gwadar, so Iran has aligned with its old enemy of the 1990s in the Taliban to check ISIS and also hamper progress on TAPI.

So in 2015 Iran is providing funding for the Taliban and has also supplied the Taliban directly with AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and materials for roadside bombs or the IED's that were once so lethal against British and Canadian troops fighting them in Helmland ( which is on the pipeline route).

The TAPI pipeline remains a key US war aim in Afghanistan that seldom gets any mention in Western newspapers because it contradicts the shifting public diplomacy narrative given as combat operations dragged on long after Al Qaida had fled their base. The US terms it "a transformative project for the entire region".

The reason NATO officials refuse to comment on the national make up of the special forces fighting the Taliban around Kunduz is that the combat mission of Western troops is officially over and the Afghans fled. The Afghanistan War, a geopolitical struggle over energy flows and security ambitions, is set to go on.

No comments:

Post a Comment