U.S. Aims for Eurasian Energy Control

By Larry Jones

Despite President Obama’s West Point war speech and Oslo “peace” speech, the glaring truth is that the U.S. is engaged in Afghanistan for less than the honorable reasons he tried to sell us. In addition to the overarching push for increased U.S. hegemony in southern Asia, there is an underlying and demanding need for energy control throughout all of Eurasia. 
 
One of the major aspects of what has come to be called the great new game is the jockeying for control of oil and gas pipelines out of the oil rich Caspian Sea area. The plan the U.S. and Britain are trying to effectuate would have such a pipeline go through Afghanistan; in fact it would go right through Helmand Province, which just happens to be where new troops will be concentrated under Obama’s new surge plan.
 
There have been and are numerous pipelines built and planned to be built to bring oil and gas from the Caspian Sea, each of which has profound geo-political (not to mention environmental) significance. At present Europe depends primarily on a line which goes through Russia from the Turkmenistan area of the Caspian Sea, giving the Russians great political clout in the region.
The U.S. and its allies want to bring oil from that area without involving either Russia or Iran. They thought they had staked their claim to a good share of that oil and gas through a pipeline built in 2006 which went from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, Tiblisi, the capital of Georgia to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Thus it is known as the BTC pipeline. But when Georgia, virtually a U.S. client state, and Russia went to war in August of 2008 Russian missiles targeted the pipeline. So that plan didn’t work out so well.
 
The Tapi Pipeline and the Taliban
 
If the U.S. wants to bring gas and oil from the petroleum rich Caspian Sea without the involvement of Russia or Iran, it will have to control pipelines that go through Afghanistan. Such a project is already in the making. It’s called TAPI, for Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
 
TAPI will begin in Turkmenistan and run south through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India and the Arabian Sea for international offloading. The primary problem is to carry this out without Taliban military interference. That’s why Helmand Province needs to be cleared of those forces which once were U.S. friends and now are called the terrorists whose destruction Obama claims is the raison d’etre for the war. In his West Point speech announcing his plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, Obama referred to the Taliban as “a ruthless, repressive, and radical movement.”
 
But in the era of the Clinton presidency, in order to begin plans for a pipeline that would bypass Russia and Iran, the Taliban was feted by the administration and by the U.S. energy company, Unocal. Then the California-based company contacted the Turkmenistan president, followed by the Taliban. Thus, as Asia Times writer Pepe Escobar put it, Unocal “launched a classic New Great game gambit that has yet to end and without which you can’t understand the Afghan war Obama has inherited.” And, we might add, made very much his own. Later British Petroleum and Amoco merged and became involved in the project, with former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski as a consultant.
 
Negotiations with the Taliban took place again in 2001 under George W. Bush, but eventually broke down, according to Escobar, because of the Taliban’s demands regarding transit fees. Soon the U.S. decided to overthrow the Taliban and 9/11 just sped up that effort. Then, again as Escobar reports, a “former CIA asset and Unocal representative, who had entertained visiting Taliban members at barbecues in Houston, was soon forced down Afghan throats as the country’s new leader.” His name was Hamid Karzai. (See http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175071 )
 
The Taliban recognized the interim Karzai government, not surprisingly since Karzai had at one time been a Talib himself. His presidency was confirmed in the election of 2004 which many observers believed had a wildly fraudulent vote count. Now Karzai has again been “elected” president, even though his administration is riddled with corruption and the runoff opposition leader, Abdullah Abdullah dropped out under the belief that no election results would be honest. Karzai, this former Taliban ally, will continue to be the U.S. puppet in Afghanistan – at least for now - as it seeks to remove the Taliban from territory where the TAPI pipeline is scheduled to go. The four countries involved signed an agreement to do the pipeline deal in April of last year.
 
Massive Airbase in the Making
 
Afghanistan itself may have unexplored and hidden mineral and even gas and oil deposits, giving the U.S. one more reason to maintain control of the area. But the pipeline is key. A 443 acre “Camp Leatherneck” military facility is furiously being built in what Afghans call the “desert of death.” Building this base is no easy task for the U.S., given the lack of roads and airports in the area, but the Pentagon saw it as a necessity as soon as Obama made it clear that he would be significantly increasing troop numbers in the area with the plan of powerfully confronting the Taliban.
 
The camp will include a huge airfield that eventually will be home to 55 helicopters and other aircraft. It will be the largest such project in the world in a combat setting.
Construction on the TAPI pipeline is expected to begin next year and be concluded by 2014 at a cost of at least $7.6 billion. The Asian Development Bank is financing the project, which will guarantee undue influence and control by ADB’s largest donor, the United States.
 
Skeptics of all this development and military expenditure and expansion fear that it will guarantee that the U.S., as empires before, will find itself mired in a war that will go on for years and end in disaster and the loss of many more lives. The whole oil pipeline project is fragile at best, and whether it can be built, much less maintained and defended, is hotly debated within ruling class circles.. 
 
But what we should really be concerned about are the lives of people in any of the nations involved. The military activity needed to protect the pipeline alone, along with the ongoing battles aimed at the Taliban but often as not killing civilians instead, portend grave dangers. We need to remember that the life of any Afghan mother or Pakistani youth is every bit as precious and valuable as that of any American.
 
Obama’s claim that the surge is necessary to prevent a possible attack on the U.S. is a prevarication worthy of a true imperialist.

 

Main Projects Organizers Larry Jones U.S. Aims for Eurasian Energy Control

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