The new Afghan "democracy" was touted with the "election" of Hamid Karzai - ex-primary UNOCAL consultant- to the presidency of Afghanistan. Many around the world, and in the region, feared the rigging of those elections, and that Karzai was little more than a U.S. pawn. Now we have open news that this may well be the case. Borger and Macaskill write in the Guardian "US Will Appoint Afghan 'Prime Minister' to Bypass Hamid Karzai." Really? The U.S. can appoint a government official in another nation to usurp the powers of the "elected" president? This is followed on 3/24 by Jane Perlez of the New York Times with "U.S. Weighs Sharif as Partner in Pakistan." So the U.S. is meddling in Pakistan's political process as well?
So why are we there? Is it to oust al Qaeda, control "terrorist" groups, "stabilize" the region? Or are we there because of the long simmering oil and natural gas issues with Russia?
As Pepe Escobar succinctly states in his article "Liquid war: Welcome to Pipelineistan:
Forget the mainstream media's obsession with al-Qaeda, Osama "dead or alive" bin Laden, the Taliban - neo, light or classic - or that "war on terror", whatever name it goes by. These are diversions compared to the high-stakes, hardcore geopolitical game that follows what flows along the pipelines of the planet.
This is not new news, but our ongoing "interest" in Afghanistan has virtually nothing to do with either "terrorism" or with good wishes for the people of Afghanistan - anymore than we seem to care about the people of Pakistan or Iraq. The United States is not there for them - it is there because of U.S. "interests." Apparently, both our government, and the people of the United States, are willing to accept a lot of "collateral damage" to protect (or advance) those "interests." All too frequently those interests are energy related, and those interests pass through and advance corporate interests. For example, the consortium of oil companies who were bargaining for the pipeline through Afghanistan.
The Clinton administration had been working with the Taliban from 1994 forward. Why? Because some companies (particularly UNOCAL and Saudi owned Delta) wanted "to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan." ... "so that the vast untapped oil and gas reserves in the Central Asian and Caspian region could be transported to markets in South Asia, South-East Asia, Far East and the Pacific" 17. This is supported by Jon Flanders article. While official relations were purportedly broken off in 1998, relations with the Taliban were maintained through the State Department (Ahmad) and through the Pakistan Military Intelligence ISI by the CIA (Chossudovsky).
According to Jon Flanders (2001), U.S. interest in the pipeline restarted in 2000, but was still not moving forward when Bush was elected. With Bush came Cheney (CEO of Halliburton) and Halliburton had investments in Turkmentistan for "integrated drilling services with an estimated value of $30 million for the total package." (Flanders)
It should not be surprising given the oil interests of the President, his kin, and his appointees, that Bush placed Afghanistan on the top of his action list. In July 2001, Colin Powell gave the Taliban $43 million for "humanitarian aid" (Madsen 2002).
According to a BBC report by George Arney (9/18/01), the US was planning military action in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. "Naiz Naik, a former Pakistan Foreign Secretary, was told by senior American officials in mid-July that military action would go ahead by the middle of October." (From: Power Play? Wolf, 2001)
All of which of course begs the question of September 11, 2001 and the catastrophic lies and invasions that occurred as a response. However, this article is not focused on 9/11 (though it hauntingly suggests the power of "interests"). Rather, one has to ask whether our new President has any different a world view, or policy initiative, than has been in play in the United States since at least the end of World War II.
Currently, Obama has expanded drone attacks into Pakistan and there is actually very little news of U.S. operations in Afghanistan. Has the "war" shifted? Obama has already stated, and started, the shifting of forces from Iraq (the "bad" war) to Afghanistan (the "good" war). I have to ask if this is because Iraq is seen as safely on a leash, or whether the saber rattling of Russia has raised the priority of protecting the pipeline (and hence "leashing" Russia's energy power)?
Left or right, there is little hard questioning of either why we are there, or what we should be trying to do. The focus has largely been "get out of Iraq" with a general acceptance that we left Afghanistan "undone." "Undone" meaning we still don't have bin Laden. However, the stakes have changed, and it is looking increasingly likely that the Taleban will be back in control of the Afghan government soon - and perhaps Pakistan's as well. While this prospect is murmured as "unfortunate," it is seen as a "realistic" approach. Perhaps, the negotiations with the Taleban have little to do with what is "realistic" and who can provide the muscle to guard the pipeline.
One note of hope is Obama's pledge to take the United States to energy independence. Success in this are - and around the world - would radically reduce the armed conflicts. While oil and gas are not the only conflict issues, they are major ones. Addressing that would start a transformation of international policy - overt and covert.
Related Articles of Interest
Ramzy Baroud. 2/21/2009. A New Afghanistan Nightmare
John Steppling. 8/13/2008. Inventing Your Own History as it Happens
Rowan Wolf. 5/26/2005. "Pipe-istan" Becomes A Reality.
Rowan Wolf. 6/27/04. Afghanistan - not a pipe dream any longer
Rowan Wolf. 5/2002. Power Play?.