Afghanistan – What’s it good for?
May 8, 2010
Ask yourself really, why are American military forces in Afghanistan? Why have we sent 130,000 troops and an equal number of paid contractor personnel to root out 150 suspected terrorists ? Are we there to wipe out Al Qaeda? The Taliban? Kill Osama Bin Laden? Is the maiming and killing on both sides worth the cost? What do we gain? What are our goals? How do we know when we’ve succeeded?
To better understand America’s geopolitical decision to invade and occupy that region of the world, I invite you to examine these questions from a different perspective. First, look at recent history. The U.S. had been seeking the means to gain a foothold in Central Asia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Again, why? Two reasons: 1. Central Asia is the source of vast quantities of energy producing natural resources (oil and natural gas) for the next two centuries. 2. American presence there insures that the Soviet Union cannot reform. The invasion of Afghanistan (ostensibly to fight Al Qaeda) gave American policy planners the perfect opportunity to install a ring of American steel in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Remember the “Northern Alliance?” That was the public moniker for America’s moving military forces into Central Asia.
But what about Afghanistan? It has no natural resources. Why put troops there? No examination of American policy in Afghanistan is complete without an understanding of the real reason we (and the Russians before us) want to control Afghanistan, because our occupation has little to do with international terrorists or domestic thugs. As stated, Central Asia has the bulk of the natural resources the world will need in the 21st and 22nd centuries, but the only way to get them out is south through Afghanistan to the huge seaports in Pakistan. In short, Afghanistan is the “spigot,” and every geostrategic thinker knows that who controls the spigot controls the resources. Fire up the Google machine and take a look at a map of the region. Our principal reason for being in Afghanistan is a secret hidden in plain sight.
Is control of that natural resources spigot worth a decades-long expenditure of American lives and national treasure? American citizens could make that decision on their own, could help shape the nation’s policy vis-à-vis Central Asia – if they were just told the truth. Others share my opinion regarding this issue. Read on.
Wall Street Journal – 5/1997
…the main interests of American and other economic elites is making Afghanistan a prime trans-shipment route for the export of Central Asia's vast oil, gas and other natural resources. Afghanistan is therefore the route into a vast region covering almost 2 million sq. miles with vast untapped natural resources and other than through Iran or China, which are not options available to the U.S., it is the only feasible bridgehead to America's principal major markets in the Pacific rim. U.S. economic expansion in such an inherently unstable and hostile region, hemmed in as it is by Russia, China and Iran, where the only real opposition to the authoritarian regimes that characterize the states of the region is Islamic fundamentalism, necessarily demand a strong military presence on the part of the United States.
Sergey Luzianin – Carnege Council for Ethics in International Policy 8/2009
Afghanistan must be seen, not in isolation, but in a broader regional (Central Asian) context. Afghanistan has only limited oil or gas reserves, but it straddles the most direct route for exporting oil and natural gas out of Turkmenistan, where the gas reserves alone are estimated at over 100 trillion cubic feet, or the fourth largest proven natural gas reserves in the world. Undoubtedly US strategic planning has to consider the importance of oil and gas in the region of the Caspian and Central Asia. As Frank Viviano pointed out on 9/26/01 in the San Francisco Chronicle: "The combined total of proven and estimated reserves in the region stands at more than 800 billion barrels of crude petroleum and its equivalent in natural gas. By contrast, the combined total of oil reserves in the Americas and Europe is less than 160 billion barrels, most of which, energy experts say, will have been exhausted in the next 25 years."
US interest in the oil and gas reserves of Central Asia is both economic and strategic. Part of the "Great Game" played for a century in the area between Britain and Russia was not just to gain control of these huge resources for oneself, but also to deny them to others. America's world dominance is based in large part on its hegemonic influence over the world oil economy. As noted below, an NSC official told Congress in 1997 that US policy in Central Asia was "to in essence break Russia's monopoly control over the transportation of oil [and gas] from that region, and frankly, to promote Western energy security through diversification of supply" (quoted in Rashid, Taliban, 174).
Farkhod T. Olipov – Foreign Policy Orientations - 2006
Zbigniew Brzezinski, for instance, in his brilliant book, wrote: “Access to that resource (natural gas and oil) and sharing in its potential wealth represent objectives that stir national ambitions, motivate corporate interests, rekindle historical claims, revive imperial aspirations and fuel international rivalries . . . The geostrategic implications for America are clear: America is too distant to be dominant in this part of Eurasia not to be engaged. Russia is too weak to dominate the area but too close and too strong to be excluded.”
Many began to use the term “diversification” to explain the process of the inevitable multiplication of directions for the transportation of oil, gas and other resources of Central Asia to world markets. But this term is applied not only with respect to the transportation of the mineral resources of the Caspian region through Afghanistan to world markets but also to indicate the foreign policy orientations of all five Central Asian countries. Thus, diversification or pluralization (the term applied by Brzezinski) is twofold: economic and geopolitical.
John Foster – Toronto Star – August 20, 2009
A glance at a map and a little knowledge of the region suggest that the real reasons for Western military involvement may be largely hidden. Afghanistan is adjacent to Middle Eastern countries that are rich in oil and natural gas. And though Afghanistan may have little petroleum itself, it borders both Iran and Turkmenistan, countries with the second and third largest natural gas reserves in the world. (Russia is first.)
Turkmenistan is the country nobody talks about. Its huge reserves of natural gas can only get to market through pipelines. Until 1991, it was part of the Soviet Union and its gas flowed only north through Soviet pipelines. Now, the Russians plan a new pipeline north. The Chinese are building a new pipeline east. The U.S. is pushing for "multiple oil and gas export routes." High-level Russian, Chinese and American delegations visit Turkmenistan frequently to discuss energy. The U.S. even has a special envoy for Eurasian energy diplomacy.
Rivalry for pipeline routes and energy resources reflects competition for power and control in the region. Pipelines are important today in the same way that railway building was important in the 19th century. They connect trading partners and influence the regional balance of power. Afghanistan is a strategic piece of real estate in the geopolitical struggle for power and dominance in the region.
Roman Muzalevski – Central Asia Caucasus Institute 6/2009:
Russia is especially interested in vying for Afghanistan as a transit and destination point for Caspian and Central Asian energy resources and as a strategic outlet to the Indian Ocean. Russia’s revitalized focus on Afghanistan is primarily driven by energy-related considerations and an understanding of a potential strategic loss of Afghanistan and Central Asia. But Russia will have to compete with the development agenda increasingly set by China and the U.S.