American Interests in Afghanistan

“The war is not meant to be won; it is meant to be continuous”- George Orwell

Although elimination of the global terrorism is the the stated aims of America’s various military adventures in different parts of the world since 9/11, there are always other multiple objectives for these invasions. Thus USA attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2011 in the wake of worldwide sympathy it was enjoying after the 9/11 tragedy, the worst intelligence failure of the American security establishment, plans to remove Taliban and install a Western-friendly regime in Afghanistan were already on the cards. It all started long before 9/11, long before the official start of the War on Terror; it is simple and straight forward case of occupation for strategic and economic reasons.

Geostrategic importance of Afghanistan cannot be over-emphasised; it stems from its location, being in the middle of four centres of powers-Middle East, Central Asia (former USSR), China and South Asia respectively. If for the former USSR, it was its soft belly, Afghanistan is the back yard of Pakistan and gateway to India. China prizes it as one of the most important corridors for reaching Middle East and the Central Asia while Iran touts it for the same reason as Pakistan-its back yard which could cause trouble if it is unstable.

The US’ War on Afghanistan was motivated by many factors, not least of which was pure geopolitics in seeking to establish a transregional base at the crossroads of Central, South, and West Asia from which America could then export its hard and soft influence through various means, be it Color Revolutions, terrorist-driven Unconventional Wars, or their combined application via Hybrid Wars. The US failed each of the three times that it tried to do this in attempting to catalyze a “Central Asian Spring” in 2005 & 2010 and then trying to use Daesh against the neighbouring countries from 2015 onwards.

The Post-American Multi-polar Blueprint For Afghanistan

Written by Andrew Korybko on 2019-01-31 Global Research, Canada

Consequently, after spending billions of dollars and sacrificing more than 3000 of its soldiers, the USA  cannot just walk away from Afghanistan and leave it to its arch rivals Russia, China and Iran to fill the vacuum. Geostrategic importance of Afghanistan is a compelling reason for the USA to have its military bases in Afghanistan even after its formal exit as a result of negotiated deal with the Taliban. Writing for the VOA, Ayesha Tanzeem stated that the

“Negotiations between the United States and the Afghan Taliban for a political settlement to end the protracted war in Afghanistan are stuck over the issue of maintenance of U.S. military bases in the country, according to Waheed Muzhda, a former Taliban official in Kabul who remains in regular contact with Taliban leaders. The “U.S. wants the Taliban to accept at least two military bases, Bagram and Shorabak. The Taliban are not willing to accept it,” Muzhda said, adding the insurgent leaders are unwilling to accept anything more than a nominal number of troops required to secure the U.S. diplomatic mission.” 

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-afghan-peace/4569725.html

Related to above is the importance of Afghanistan as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea and the Subcontinent. It is in fact one of the main causes of direct invasion of the NATO forces and the proxy wars by others. To many, the construction of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline gas pipeline by the American firm UNOCA was the prime reason for launching the War on Terrorism.

As the story goes, UNOCAL was interested to exploit the hydrocarbon resources, estimated to be more than 200 billion barrels of oil, in the newly-independent Asian republics. Consequently, in 1995, Unocal, in partnership with an Argentinian and a Saudi oil company, signed agreements with Turkmenistan to build gas and oil pipelines which was further extended to include building a 36-inch natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, via Afghanistan and ultimately to India.

On the invitation of Unocal, a delegation of Taliban, ruling Afghanistan at that time, visited their corporate headquarters in California and signed an agreement in January, 1998 to allow the pipeline to pass through their country. However, in March, 1998 Unocal announced a delay in the pipeline project, stating an ongoing civil war in Afghanistan as their reason for this delay. Feeling frustrated by this betrayal, Taliban entered into agreement on April 30, 1999 with Pakistan and Turkmenistan for the pipeline.

This led the U.S. government to retaliate, placing sanctions on Afghanistan and delivered the famous ultimatum, “Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.”  Refusal of the Taliban to toe the American line was too much for the USA. 9/11 provided the casus belli for the attack on 7th October 2001 which has unfortunately proved to be a Sisyphean nightmare for the USA. (In Greek legend Sisyphus was punished in Hades for his misdeeds in life by being condemned eternally to roll a heavy stone up a hill. As he neared the top, the stone rolled down again, so that his labour was everlasting and futile.)

Additionally, besides its importance as an oil and gas transit route, Afghanistan’s geoeconomic significance lies in terms of its mineral wealth  According to conservative estimates, Afghanistan has around 1500 mineral fields, containing various mineral resources ranging from coal, copper, gold and gemstones of various kinds to iron ore, lead, natural gas and petroleum. As per a joint study by the Pentagon and the United States Geological Survey, Afghanistan has an estimated 1 trillion USDof untapped minerals, although other sources estimate it at 3 trillion USD.In December 2013, President Karzai claimed the mineral deposits are actually worth $30 trillion! USA and her allies would be keenly interested to restrict the increasing Chinese access to these vast resources of the region and her accompanying political clout among the regional countries.

While discussing American interests in Afghanistan, we must not ignore the corporate interests of the USA private sector which play larger than life role in American foreign policy. Like environmental and climate change, terrorism also spawns an entire business activity involving manufacturing of ant-terrorism goods and weapons, their marketing and sale as well as an entire service sector which provide services for anti-terrorism measures.

It means billions of dollars invested and millions of jobs created for countering the local terrorism. Now, we need markets for all these goods and services which we have got. That is where you attack foreign countries in the name of your high moral values and the market booms for your products and expertise. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),  major weapons sales in the five years to 2017 were 10% higher than in 2008-12. “And it is the United States that is extending its lead as the globe’s number one arms exporter. It is estimated that the US now accounts for 34% of all global arms sales, up from 30% five years ago, and are now at their highest level since the late 1990s.”

In his very thought provoking article” who is afraid of peace in Afghanistan”Amb. M. K. BHADRAKUMAR (India) has beautifully explained how the corporate interests of American military-industrial complex are hindering in the way of peace in Afghanistan

“Evidently, wars create corporate interests and the 15-year old Afghan war, the longest in US’s history, has created a gravy train involving tens of billions of dollars (much of it unaccounted for.) The American war contractors and the politicians who lobby for them are having a whale of a time. It now transpires that Pentagon has been spending billions of dollars as salaries for Afghan “ghost soldiers” who existed only on paper!”

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