Operation Enduring Pipeline

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Operation Enduring
Freedom is the official label for the US military invasion and occupation
of Afghanistan. After almost seven years of fighting, what has been
gained? What might be gained?

US frustration with heavy casualties and lack of progress came to
a head recently when Defense Secretary Robert
blamed NATO allies for US casualties. “I know I’ve
been a big nag, and I know I’ve been a pain, … but for
NATO to continue to be tied up in politics [because of a lack of
public support] and issues between governments that are irrelevant
to whether we are making progress in Afghanistan, I just don’t
have patience any more . . .We’ve got kids dying because of
the gaps.”

Freedom? There’s
no progress there, either, for women, journalists and Afghanis in

Freedom for
women? Ann
, a writer who has lived in Afghanistan, writes that promises
to the Afghans are repeatedly broken. The national government, with
the consent of the occupation, installed many of the very warlords
who had shelled Kabul for years. Afghan women, by far, have had
it the worst, suffering for centuries in a moribund patriarchal
culture, from relentless discrimination that regarded them as the
lowest form of slaves. A recent example: On May 21, 2007, the lower
house of the Afghan parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, voted to suspend
Malalai Joya
, a female MP elected from Farah province. Malalai
was accused of insulting the parliament and suspended until the
end of her term in 2009. Malalai’s suspension occurred after
she appeared in a television interview comparing the parliament
to an animal stable.

Freedom of
the press? The fourth
of journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, condemned to death,
scheduled for Sunday, June 15, was delayed again by the judges in
the case. Medical evidence has been submitted showing Kambakhsh
was tortured during interrogations at the Balkh provincial jail.
Yakub Kambakhsh, older brother of Parwez, and a noted journalist
himself said, “Now we have found out that there is no impartial
court in Afghanistan, even in the capital." The Committee
to Protect Journalists in Afghanistan
on June 11th called on
President Karzai for press freedom:

  • Call for
    the release of imprisoned journalism student Parwez Kambakhsh,
    who was sentenced to death by a provincial court in January on
    blasphemy charges.
  • Identify
    and prosecute the killers of BBC journalist Abdul Samad Rohani,
    who was slain in Helmand province on June 7.
  • Investigate
    reported attacks in western Herat province against two female
    journalists who later resigned their news media positions. Unidentified
    assailants twice hurled grenades at Khadija Ahmadi’s house
    in April after she was anonymously warned to quit her post at
    Faryat radio station, according to news reports.
  • Direct prosecutors
    to drop criminal charges against the privately run television
    network Tolo TV for defying a parliamentary ban on selected Indian
    soap operas.

Freedom for
the Afghanis? According to the recent Amnesty
International Report 2008
: Violations of international humanitarian
and human rights law were committed with impunity by all parties,
including Afghan and international security forces and insurgent
groups. All sides carried out indiscriminate attacks, which included
aerial bombardments by the International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF) and US-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) forces, as well
as suicide attacks by armed groups. According to the Afghanistan
NGO Security Office, there were around 2,000 non-combatant civilian
deaths, with international forces causing over a quarter of casualties
and insurgent groups just under half. Rights associated with education,
health and freedom of expression were violated, particularly for
women. Human rights defenders and journalists, many of them women,
were threatened, physically intimidated, detained or killed. Reforms
of key government institutions, including the police and intelligence
service, made limited progress. Government officials and local power-holders
were not held accountable for reported abuses and there was little
or no access to justice in many areas.

Freedom is
in big trouble in Afghanistan, but let’s think positive, prospects
for a natural gas pipeline might be better.

is just north of Afghanistan. Daniel Sershen reported a year ago
from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan for the Christian
Science Monitor
: "Blanketed by vast deserts, Turkmenistan
sits atop some of the world’s largest natural-gas reserves. As Russia
and the West look to secure new gas and oil supplies in a tightening
race for energy security, this Central Asian country has landed
squarely in their sights. Last weekend, Russia secured a deal for
a new pipeline to take Turkmenistan’s gas north, delivering a serious
setback to US and European hopes for one that would siphon the gas
to the West – bypassing Russia’s increasingly powerful grip
on energy resources and routes."

Setback to
the West? Not so fast. In response, last November Turkmenistan,
Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the four partners of a proposed
$3.3 bn
, vowed to accelerate work on the four-nation project
to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to India. The declaration
was adopted in New Delhi at a two-day regional economic cooperation
forum on Afghanistan, which was attended by Afghan President Hamid
Karzai. The proposed gas pipeline project (TAPI)
will initially provide 30 million cubic meters of gas to Pakistan
and India each and 5 million cubic meters to Afghanistan on a daily
basis, which can be later increased up to 90 million cubic meters
in aggregate. TAPI
will run from the Dovetabat gas deposit in Turkmenistan to the Indian
town of Fazilka, near the border between Pakistan and India. Six
compressor stations are to be constructed along the pipeline. TAPI
certainly would help the consumer countries, Pakistan and India,
while Turkmenistan could make billions of dollars from gas exports.
But arguably it would benefit
US-client Afghanistan
most by providing steady transit fees
to fill depleted state coffers in Kabul.

The American
company Unocal
has a ten-year history of interest in the Turkmenistan gas field
and a pipeline through Afghanistan. The Taliban wasn’t interested,
but the Hamid Karzai government is more amenable. On April 28 Afghan
President Hamid Karzai and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov
met in Kabul, where they signed an agreement
on extension of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan,
Pakistan and India.

A key political
objective of the TAPI pipeline, one that changed it from TAP to
TAPI, was to involve India and keep it away from a proposed Iran-Pakistan-India
(IPI) pipeline. This would receive a boost from a civil nuclear
energy pact with the United States.

But India has
its politics also. The future of the nuclear energy pact between
New Delhi and Washington appears bleak, and last month, reports
, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said
that, after a visit from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project is moving toward
the "final stage" of its implementation. "The direction
of the project is positive," said Sadiq at a weekly news briefing.
The US$7.5-billion IPI gas pipeline project, which has been under
discussions since 1994, is to deliver natural gas from Iran to Pakistan
and India. Last month, the long-stalled talks on the gas pipeline
project made a breakthrough when Ahmadinejad made whistle-stop visits
to Pakistan and India. The three countries are expected to sign
agreements on the IPI project soon.

Yikes, foiled
again, outflanked by Iran? Again, there are options. The IPI pipeline
wouldn’t of course pass through war-torn Afghanistan but it would
pass through Balochistan,
the largest of Pakistan’s provinces and the scene of recent unrest
including pipeline bombings. (I wonder who financed the unrest?)
In fact, Balochistan might opt to become an independent state if
it is not granted provincial autonomy, Senate Deputy Chairman Jan
Muhammad Jamali
said recently. “The time is running out … there is no other
option left but to grant provincial autonomy to all the provinces
including Balochistan,” Jamali told the Upper House while speaking
on a point of order. He said he had been forced to raise the voice
of the people of his province, as the situation was rapidly deteriorating.
“The four brothers (provinces) will not be able to live together
if the situation remains the same,” he added.

Is there any
chance that Jamali’s threats might come true? Do the Jamalis have
any clout? Could Pakistan break up? It’s possible. The Jamali
has in the past collaborated with the CIA and the ISI
(Pakistan Intelligence) in countering the activities of two other
tribes and their Marxist influence in Balochistan. During the course
of this collaboration, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali became friendly
with Nancy Powell (no relation to Colin), who was then a young member
of the diplomatic corps in Pakistan and then served as US ambassador
to Pakistan 2002–2004. She is currently the ambassador to Nepal.

An independent
Balochistan would balkanize Pakistan, create a US-friendly state
between Iran and India, and hurt Iran badly by stymieing the IPI
pipeline. It would also provide a side benefit by isolating the
large new port that the Chinese are financing in Gwadar,
on Balochistan’s coast. In March 2002, Chinese vice premier Wu Bangguo
laid the foundation for Gwadar port, which is intended be a key
Chinese facility on the Arabian Sea, not far from the Persian Gulf
and the Strait of Hormuz. The US might consider this a threat to
The Carter Doctrine, which dictates that the US shall be the big
dog in the Middle East.

Operation Enduring
Freedom? With John McCain and Barack Obama now arguing about widening
the Afghanistan war and invading Pakistan, the TAPI natural gas
pipeline has a better chance than freedom ever had. It would be
an American-controlled cash cow that would hurt Iran. All the US
needs to do is pacify Afghanistan with more troops (to safeguard
TAPI) and balkanize Pakistan (to stymie IPI) while widening the
war and antagonizing India. Freedom be damned. Freedom was never
an option anyhow, especially when there’s money to be made by endless

20, 2008

Bacon [send him mail]
is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley
Butler Society
several years ago because, as General Butler
said, “war is a racket.”

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