News that British troops are being redeployed once more in Helmland, to help the Afghan National Army repel the Taliban from the town of Sangin, proved that the vaunted 'drawdown' of troops never mean 'withdrawal'. The clue was in the wording, despite the official end to Britain's war in Afghanistan being trumpeted.'The UK sent a modest contingent of British military advisers to Helmand at the weekend to support the overstretched forces. The 10 British troops, part of a 300-strong Nato force, are based at Camp Shorabak, about 50 miles from Sangin. The MoD said they would remain inside the camp to provide advice and infantry training'.
David Cameron's statement in 2014-'mission accomplished'- was a form of 'public diplomacy' to assure the British public that Britain had completed its job and that it was, to use Blair's old refrain, 'time to move on'. Only it was not and the central objective in 'staying the course' in Afghanistan remained unmentionable.
Helmland is strategically important because the TAPI gas pipeline finally started construction on December 13 2015 and will run via Kandahar. This pipeline is a very important part of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan and the Afghan government pledged 7000 troops to help defend and secure the pipeline route.
While the TAPI pipeline is routinely presented in Western 'public diplomacy' ( when it is mentioned at all ) as part of 'development economics', a project to help rebuild Afghanistan through providing energy and transit fees, it is disingenuous to pretend that it is not central to certain geopolitical ambitions in Central Asia.
'According to the Council of Foreign Relations, the pipeline has been a focus of US policy to contrast the influence of Russian and Chinese investments in the region. Dubbed as the ‘peace pipeline’ for bringing together rival countries like India and Pakistan, the project would also enable Turkmenistan to diversify its exports away from China.'
Turkmenistan has the world's second largest gas reserves. The US-NATO has largely given up on 'nation building' and has sought instead to pursue 'Afghanistanisation' whereby Western military experts, trainers and special-ops forces get native troops to protect and defend crucial resource interests.
TAPI is a rival to Iran's IP pipeline, all the more important now that the nuclear deal with Tehran means Iran will have sanctions lifted and be able to export gas to Pakistan. If the US does not want Iranian influence, in tandem with China, which is backing IP, to expand too far, then securing TAPI is vital to India's energy security
The US fears Iran and Pakistan aligning too closely and so threatening the relationship with Saudi Arabia just across the Persian Gulf. The nuclear deal was considered necessary to bring Iran out of the cold and to shore up the Shi'ite dominated Iraqi government against ISIS and its threat to global oil supplies.
Gaining Iran's cooperation is designed prevent the US being drawn back into Iraq after withdrawal in 2011 and the new focus on containing China (the 'pivot to Asia'). In that sense TAPI is vital to America's ability to project power and influence in Eurasia by getting India onside as part of a strategy to check Chinese influence.
TAPI has some role in that general strategy, of asserting US influence in rivalry with China and Russia, by diverting control over energy flows away from Russian control and not letting Turkmenistan become dominated by its main export partner in China ( after a pipeline was completed connecting the two in 2014 ).
This is the reality in the New Great Game. Afghanistan is regarded as the crucial 'land bridge' between Central Asia and the burgeoning energy hungry economies and demographically expanding societies of South Asia. It is also has copious quantities of mineral resources the Western powers wish to gain a stake in.
As revealed by Anthony Loewenstein,
' Since 2009, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) have provided $488 million toward the nation’s extractive industries supporting a variety of corporations like the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the US-based contractors Expertech Solutions and Hickory Ground Solutions.