Here Is Why We Went To Afghanistan In The First Place (It wasn't 9/11)

August 20, 2009

John Foster, Toronto Star - 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.

Since the 1990s, Washington has promoted a natural gas pipeline south through Afghanistan. The route would pass through Kandahar province. In 2007, Richard Boucher, U.S. assistant secretary of state, said: "One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan," and to link South and Central Asia "so that energy can flow to the south." Oil and gas have motivated U.S. involvement in the Middle East for decades. Unwittingly or willingly, Canadian forces are supporting American goals.

The proposed pipeline is called TAPI, after the initials of the four participating countries (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India). Eleven high-level planning meetings have been held during the past seven years, with Asian Development Bank sponsorship and multilateral support (including Canada's). Construction is planned to start next year. . .

Ukraine is the main gateway for gas from Russia to Europe. The United States has pushed for alternate pipelines and encouraged European countries to diversify their sources of supply. Recently built pipelines for oil and gas originate in Azerbaijan and extend through Georgia to Turkey. They are the jewels in the crown of U.S. strategy to bypass Russia and Iran.

The rivalry continues with plans for new gas pipelines to Europe from Russia and the Caspian region. . . Meanwhile, Iran is planning a pipeline to deliver gas east to Pakistan and India. Pakistan has agreed in principle, but India has yet to do so. It's an alternative to the long-planned, U.S.-supported pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India.

A very big game is underway, with geopolitics intruding everywhere. U.S. journalist Steven LeVine describes American policy in the region as "pipeline-driven." Other countries are pushing for pipeline routes, too. . .

John Foster is an energy economist and author of "A Pipeline Through A Troubled Land - Afghanistan, Canada, and the New Great Energy Game," published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Of related interest

Of related interest, by Pepe Escobar (first ran in Asia Times, I believe, but AlterNet was the only link I could find):

New Lies For Old

Since Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan and Russia are STILL a part of the USSR, American strategy is NOT being dictated by long-term American/Western strategic interests, but by short-term monetary interests. If you accept the proposition that the USSR self-destructed in December 1991, then in the not too distant future you have one hell of a shock coming to you by some not so friendly allies of the Soviets...the Red Chinese!

In the not too distant future also watch for a Chinese (PRC) version of the Soviet collapse. The new "democratic" Chinese government will be heavily populated by the "dissident" leaders of the Tiananmen Square movement that was squashed back in 1989.

For those who are wise, read Anatoliy Golitsyn's books, New Lies For Old, and The Perestroika Deception. It's all there in the books:

Addendum -----------------------------------------------------------------------

I just found out that an article came out on Anatoliy Golitsyn this month in the New American magazine. Here is a snippet:

As far as Russia goes, even many of the erstwhile enthusiasts of the so-called sea-change events of 1989-1991 have been forced to admit in recent years that Vladimir Putin has, in many ways, reinstated the Soviet model of dictatorship. In fact, by 2006 much of the western media had finally awakened to the reality that KGB veteran Putin had stacked the top levels of the Russian government with comrades from the KGB (and its successor, renamed the FSB) to the tune of 80 percent--a higher percentage than had ever been seen in Soviet history. The iron fist is now showing through the velvet glove in ways that were predictable, and were indeed predicted.

Dean Jackson/Editor-in-Chief
Washington, DC

Rare bit of truth.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a rare piece of truth in the Toronto Star.
Here is the original.
Canadians are hopelessly ignorant about the mission in Afghanistan.
This is the first time I've seen anything other than vague statements about women's rights, democracy etc.
Politicians and media (including the CBC) are quick to politicize the heroics of Canadian troops and their humanitarian missions
and actual elections but never a word about the geo-political significance of this area and the real reasons it has been occupied
regularly for decades.

Letter to editor.

Looks like the Toronto Star actually printed my letter to the editor.

"Afghanistan analysis was spot on" (This is their header not mine, the following is mine.)

Re:Afghanistan and the new great game, Opinion Aug. 12

Thank you John Foster for finally explaining the West's stubborn interest in this poor remote land. Since 9/11, politicians and the media have struggled to explain, or avoid explaining, the real reason for the invasion and occupation of this god-forsaken piece of real estate. At one point we heard it was "retaliation for 9/11," but that excuse was quickly shelved. On other occasions it was the typical rationalization about women's rights and democracy or schools for the children. While we all support these ideals, it has been obvious that there was a hidden agenda all along and it is refreshing to actually read about it in the mainstream news media.

Arnie Hyma, Bowmanville

Here is the map of the TAPI pipeline route

"To prepare for proposed construction in 2010, the Afghan government has reportedly given assurances it will clear the route of land mines, and make the path free of Taliban influence.

In a report to be released today, energy economist John Foster says the pipeline is part of a wider struggle by the United States to counter the influence of Russia and Iran over energy trade in the region.

The so-called Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline has strong support from Washington because the U.S. government is eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran.

The TAPI pipeline would also diminish Russia’s dominance of Central Asian energy exports."

“On the altar of God, I swear eternal hostility against all forms of tyranny over the mind of man."--Thomas Jefferson

Role Playing

Since Russia is a part of the USSR (as is Turkmenistan), the concept of Russia's dominance is not the point. Russia can play the role of "looking" like it has lost dominance in Central Asian energy exports, but that is all it is, a role.

Dean Jackson/Editor-in-Chief
Washington, DC


If Not Me? Who? If Not Now? When?