The “war of necessity” over a pipeline

TAPI Pipeline route

TAPI Pipeline route

8 years and 64,000 troops from 41 countries later, the Taliban are still going strong in Afghanistan. Just this evening, a car bomb has killed 40 in Kandahar adding to the rapidly growing death toll of  Western soldiers and Afghanis dying in this needless conflict. The Guardian reports that this year, 295 troops have now been killed already this year compared to 294 in the whole of 2008. As is common with the Western media, no mention is made of how many Afghanis may have been killed. Obama is calling it a “war of necessity” and it’s clear that his credo of “change we can believe in” stops squarely when it comes to Afghanistan. He is still espousing the tired justification that those who attacked the USA on 9-11 were trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan and are planning to do so again. In reality, this “war of necessity” is nothing but a war for control of an oil pipeline.

Afghanistan has always been a huge strategic geo-political prize because of it’s proximity to energy producing states in the Gulf and Central Asia. The stakes have been risen even more however by the construction of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline known as TAPI due to open in 2014. The pipeline will pass through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Even the BBC theorized as far back as 2001 that the pipeline was the motivating factor behind the invasion. It suggested:

  • Given the increasing importance of finding and exploiting new sources of fossil fuel, governments like those of the US and the UK are enormously keen to gain influence in the Central Asian region in order to secure those supplies for the West
  • In order to achieve that, and get those energy supplies moving out of Central Asia, they need to set up a pro-western government in Afghanistan.

In typically liberal style however, the BBC concludes that you’re probably insane for believing these theories by stating:

But the argument that these are the main motivations behind US actions, not the desire to stamp out international terrorism, will probably find support mainly among those who already have a fondness for conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile Noam Chomsky’s theory is that the pipeline will remove regional dependence on Iran for oil and thus isolate the country even further – suiting US political motives in the region.

The Americans have coveted the pipeline for quite some time now. US interest in the pipeline stretches back to 1998 when, as Patrick Martin writes:

The Afghanistan pipeline route was pushed by the US-based Unocal oil company, which engaged in intensive negotiations with the Taliban regime. These talks, however, ended in disarray in 1998, as US relations with Afghanistan were inflamed by the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, for which Osama bin Laden was held responsible. In August 1998, the Clinton administration launched cruise missile attacks on alleged bin Laden training camps in eastern Afghanistan. The US government demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden and imposed economic sanctions. The pipeline talks languished.

It’s quite possible that Unicol and the Bush administration saw 9-11 as the perfect opportunity to “settle” this languishing of talks once and for all by simply invading the country. As Michael Hart and Antoni Negri state in their book Empire, “All empires go to war over natural resources”. That’s why its Afghanistan and not New Zealand that’s been pounded with bombs for the last 8 years.