[SLP] Behind the War in Afghanistan
VOL. 111 NO. 8
WHAT ARE THE REAL REASONS
for the war in AFGHANISTAN?
By Diane Secor
The Bush administration has told the American public to prepare for a
long war on terrorism, ostensibly in response to the Sept. 11 attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. There seems to be a general
consensus among the administration, most members of Congress and most of
the U.S. media that the U.S. role in this war is a clear-cut case of
self-defense and that violence is necessary to prevent more terrorist
strikes on U.S. soil. For all intents and purposes, however, the "war on
terrorism" is a war on Afghanistan, and there is substantial evidence
indicating that an Afghan war was planned several months ago and that,
in reality, this is another war over oil.
Last March, long before Sept. 11, Jane's International Security News
reported on an agreement that had all the earmarks of a multinational
coalition aimed at undermining the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. "India
is believed to have joined Russia, the U.S.A. and Iran in a concerted
front against Afghanistan's Taliban regime," Jane's reported. "India is
believed to have supplied the Northern Alliance leader, Ahmed Shah
Massoud, with high-altitude warfare equipment. Indian defense advisors,
including air force helicopter technicians, are reportedly providing
tactical advice in operations against the Taliban....Military sources
indicated that Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are being used as bases to
launch anti-Taliban operations by India and Russia."
In short, something resembling the multinational coalition so much in
the news since Sept. 11 has been in place for at least six months.
Furthermore, this pre-September coalition also had a basic strategy in
place to throw out the Taliban. This certainly calls into question the
U.S. media's clear overall implication that it was only after Sept. 11
that a multinational force banded together and concluded that the
Taliban had to be replaced.
The following statement from Jane's March 15 report is even more
revealing: "Several recent meetings between the newly instituted
Indo-U.S. and Indo-Russian joint working groups on terrorism led to this
effort to tactically and logistically counter the Taliban. Intelligence
sources in Delhi said that while India, Russia and Iran were leading the
anti-Taliban campaign on the ground, Washington was giving the Northern
Alliance information and logistic support."
Why does the United States want to overthrow the Taliban and put another
Afghan regime in power? Why is Bush taking the risk of a larger regional
war and possibly igniting future terrorist attacks against Americans?
Zalmay Khalilzad may hold the key to unraveling this mystery.
According to a May 23 White House press release, Khalilzad was selected
for the post of "special assistant to the president and senior director
for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues, National Security
Khalilzad does have the political connections to get the job. Eli J.
Lake, United Press International, on Jan. 18 reported that Khalilzad
"who served under President Reagan's State Department and President
Bush's Pentagon and influenced the last American adventure in [the]
region when the CIA helped ship surface-to-air missiles to the
mujaheddin, the holy warriors who fought against the Soviets. Khalilzad
now finds himself in a position to influence the next administration's
policy for cleaning up the mess created by the mujaheddin's struggle in
the 1980s, as the man in charge of staffing the Pentagon for the
Bush-Cheney transition team."
Interestingly, according to the Center for Strategic International
Studies' Washington Quarterly, Winter 2000, Khalilzad's Afghan policy
seemed to fit right in with the scenario outlined in the Jane's report.
He "argue[d] in no uncertain terms for supporting the Pashtun majority
in Afghanistan to roll back the Taliban government and working
'discreetly' with Iran and Russia to destabilize the government in
However, as recently as 1999, Khalilzad favored some degree of
"engagement," as opposed to "destabilization" of the Taliban regime. In
a white paper for the House International Relations Committee, he said
that "U.S. policy toward Afghanistan should follow two parallel and
complementary tracks, one of which extends a hand to the Taliban and the
other of which prepares for a much tougher policy should the Taliban
reject U.S. overtures."
What accounts for Khalilzad's change of heart? UPI also reported that he
is "an analyst for the Rand Corp. and before that the chief consultant
for Unocal, the oil company that sought to build a pipeline through
The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA)
issued a September document on Afghanistan which noted the stormy
relationship between the Taliban and Unocal affecting two pipelines that
Unocal had planned to construct through Afghanistan:
A billion Central Asian Gas Pipeline would have transported natural
gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, then be "linked with Pakistan's
natural gas grid at Sui." In June 1998, the consortium consisted of
these firms: "Unocal and Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil held a combined 85
percent stake in Centgas, while Turkmenrusgas owned 5 percent. Other
participants in the proposed project besides Delta Oil include the
Crescent Group of Pakistan, Gazprom of Russia, Hyundai Engineering &
Construction Co. of South Korea, Inpex and Itochu of Japan."
"Besides the gas pipeline," the EIA added, "Unocal also had considered
building a 1,000-mile, 1-million barrel-per-day...capacity oil pipeline
that would link Chardzou, Turkmenistan to Pakistan's Arabian Sea Coast
via Afghanistan. Since the Chardzou refinery is already linked to
Russia's Western Siberian oil fields, this line could provide a possible
alternative export route for regional oil production from the Caspian
Sea. The .5 billion pipeline is known as the Central Asian Oil
Pipeline Project. For a variety of reasons, including high political
risk and security concerns, however, financing for this project remains
In January 1998, Unocal and the Taliban hammered out the gas pipeline
agreement. But by the end of 1998, both of the pipeline deals collapsed
and the Unocal consortium gave up on working with the Taliban regime. It
then became increasingly clear that the Taliban were an obstacle to gas
and oil flowing through Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, Khalilzad took a
more "hard line" position on the Taliban.
If this story of another war over oil and natural gas deposits begins to
sound like a "broken record," it is because the history of capitalism is
filled with these cases. In the pursuit of new markets and raw
materials, the risks of war and terrorist acts are the rule, not the
exception. Nationalistic fervor and an understandable tendency to panic
when the trauma of terrorism hits so close to home often obscure these
basic realities. But workers who are aware of the real causes of this
war will not be hoodwinked.
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