A titanic power struggle in Kabul

#1
South Asia
Mar 13, 2010
A titanic power struggle in Kabul
By M K Bhadrakumar

The flurry of diplomatic activity in Kabul during the past week heralded the opening shots of a titanic power struggle, the outcome of which will largely determine the contours of an Afghan settlement.

In what is shaping up as a multi-layered power struggle, the principal protagonists are the United States and Britain, Pakistan, Iran and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The struggle is set to accelerate during the coming weeks and will lead all the way to the Afghan loya jirga (the traditional tribal council), which by present indications is expected to take place in Kabul on April 29. Undoubtedly, the stakes are high for all protagonists and the battle lines are being drawn.

The sudden dash by Pakistani army chief Pervez Kiani to Kabul last Friday to discuss "matters of mutual interest" with Karzai, the two-day unannounced mission on Monday by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (whose primary intent was to check out on the intensifying exchanges between Kabul and Tehran), Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad's consultations in Kabul on Wednesday ostensibly to discuss the bright prospects for Afghan-Iranian economic cooperation, and Karzai's own two-day trip to Islamabad from Wednesday - all served to highlight the overlapping templates of the power struggle.
More
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LC13Df01.html?
 
#2
Just finished reading the book Afghanistan by Martin Ewans. It's been a tribal shitehole being fought over since the dawn of time. A good read of the history and politics of the place and the crud that has inhabited it.
 
#4
NATO has been looking for a role,since The Wall came down.It has yet to find a proper one,to which all members can subscribe.Certainly all members do not subscribe to the Afghan adventure.
 
#5
I hope NATO will back us up to the hilt if anything kicks off in the Falklands,being as they are British Territory.....they didn,t help much last time....the UK was on it,s own that time!!!
 
#6
...
Karzai also seems to have extended assurances as regards Pakistan's legitimate strategic interests. Of note, he had a separate meeting with Kiani.

In his press conference in Islamabad on Thursday, Karzai drew a subtle distinction between India and Pakistan in the Afghan perceptions. Karzai said, "India is a close friend of Afghanistan but Pakistan is a brother of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a twin brother. We are conjoined twins, there's no separation."

Karzai also stressed Afghanistan's neutrality. "Afghanistan does not want any proxy wars on its territory. It does not want a proxy war between India and Pakistan. It does not want a proxy war between Iran and the US on Afghanistan."
...
That's as elegant a summary of Kabul's dire predicament as I've seen. Karzai has his strengths. Diplomacy is one of them. He'll need every weasily trick to survive this lions den.

Our exit strategy is clear:
...
Without doubt, Islamabad will now turn towards Washington and assess what it has to offer. There is much satisfaction in Islamabad that recent US statements have virtually acknowledged Pakistan's drive for gaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan.

Almost the entire Pakistani leadership is going to Washington for consultations in the coming weeks. Pakistani navy chief Admiral Noman Bashir reaches the US capital on March 17, followed by Kiani and Inter-Services Intelligence chief Shuja Pasha, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the end of the month, and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in the second week of April. Pakistan-US strategic dialogue is also scheduled to take place in Washington in the last week of March at the level of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Beyond the Indian presence in Afghanistan, beyond Karzai's political future, beyond imponderables over the loya jirga, and even beyond the fortunes of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Islamabad will calculate that the time has come to assess if, how and to what extent the US is prepared to accommodate Pakistan's aspirations as a regional power.

Specifically, Islamabad expects parity with India as regards the US strategic partnership.
...
Expect to see Karzai's Persian chums play a ever larger role here. He can't really trust an overstretched DC in hock to Beijing. It would be all too easy for a desperate Barry to hand his head to Pindi and call it victory.

I don't really buy the Great Game with Russia bit at the end, that's an old Pentagon pipe dream now looking utterly unsound, but Kayani and his heavily braided goons may be deluded enough to.
 
T

taffy01

Guest
#7
Bamber(Phil) said:
I hope NATO will back us up to the hilt if anything kicks off in the Falklands,being as they are British Territory.....they didn,t help much last time....the UK was on it,s own that time!!!
You have'nt got a hope in hell! NATO back Britain over the Falklands! Those other Europeans and the the US still see us as Colonial antiques trying to hang on to past glory. The fact that the fun loving UK population have only an interest in things foriegn such as a cheap pint and egg and chips in the sun, Oh and baked beans as not changed their percetption. The Brits who do take an interest, i personally believe, are a little war wary
NATO and the EU are not that kean on, as they see us a stooge of Ameriacn foriegn policy, us arrogant Brits and if it were not the fact the the UK is committed to AFPAK the US would also be a doubtful source of support. We need another act of God i'm afraid, the earthquake that decimated Chile (Who prior to the big shake protested against British claims) needs to move a little east. The military cupboard is looking a bit bare i should imagine and all the kit in stock is tropical, not South Atlantic and lastly, the navy as been reduced to fishing trawler off Grimsby :D
 
#8
"cheap pint and egg and chips in the sun, Oh and baked beans"

Eh Taff
You certainly talk the good talk.
I doubt the UK population are war weary, most are not really affected, War is just something they hear about occasionally on the news.
Mind you I do agree NATO and the Clock Suckers do still consider The Brits to be old colonialists ( they all have room to talk) and providing Labour is Willing I can't see the Skint Argy's doing anything then make noise for internal consumption.

john
 
T

taffy01

Guest
#9
jonwilly said:
"cheap pint and egg and chips in the sun, Oh and baked beans"

Eh Taff
You certainly talk the good talk.
I doubt the UK population are war weary, most are not really affected, War is just something they hear about occasionally on the news.
Mind you I do agree NATO and the Clock Suckers do still consider The Brits to be old colonialists ( they all have room to talk) and providing Labour is Willing I can't see the Skint Argy's doing anything then make noise for internal consumption.

john
Hi John,
By war wary I did not mean being bombed out or that the ration book as been lost. God forbid! I do not think that today's society could handle that sort of trauma. Wary due to the media and press I.E. Political scandels, 24 hour news coverage, Brown and Blair, pointless white washing tribunals etc etc. Nobody, unless they have family and friends serving really take notice of the Wars.
 
#10
There is one advantage Karzai has over Iran. Iran gets lots of its water from Afghanistan, and when the Taliban were in they turned off the taps. So, Taliban=drought.
But: The US is spending a lot on Afghan hydro electric projects like the Kajaki and Salma dam projects. That will tie up a lot of water the Iranians need.
See:http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2010/2010-02-16-01.html
So: It's in Iran's interest to stop the various dam projects, but not to hack off Karzai to a point where he turns the taps off like the Taliban did.

Tricky, Tricky.
 

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
There appears to be a good deal more to this than meets the eye. Afghanistan, a barren (for the most part' sh!tehole of gargantuan proportions, with no effective military might (as compared to either India or Pakistan, or anyone else), who's major export is opium . . . . . . is dead centre in frantic negotiations between the rival nuclear superpowers of India and Pakistan, with Iran trying to jump in and do things, as well as the biggest superpower in the world stomping the place flat in search of AQ etc etc etc.

Are we absolutely sure that Afghanistan has no mineral wealth (gas, oil or yellowcake), and are we absolutely sure that there's no plans for gas or oil pipelines through that part of the world?

Edited to add:

Energy Overview
The Soviets had estimated Afghanistan's proven and probable natural gas reserves at up to 5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in the 1970s. Afghan natural gas production reached 275 million cubic feet per day (Mmcf/d) in the mid-1970s. However, due to declining reserves from producing fields, output gradually fell to about 220 Mmcf/d by 1980. At that time, the Jorquduq field was brought online and was expected to boost Afghan natural gas output to 385 Mmcf/d by the early 1980s. However, sabotage of infrastructure by the anti-Soviet mujaheddin fighters limited the country's total production to 290 Mmcf/d, an output level that was held fairly steady until the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. After the Soviet pullout and subsequent Afghan civil war, roughly 31 producing wells at Sheberghan area fields were shut in pending the restart of natural gas sales to the former Soviet Union.

At its peak in the late 1970s, Afghanistan supplied 70%-90% of its natural gas output to the Soviet Union's natural gas grid via a link through Uzbekistan. In 1992, Afghan President Najibullah indicated that a new natural gas sales agreement with Russia was in progress. However, several former Soviet republics raised price and distribution issues and negotiations stalled. In the early 1990s, Afghanistan also discussed possible natural gas supply arrangements with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and several Western European countries, but these talks never progressed further. Afghan natural gas fields include Jorqaduq, Khowaja Gogerdak, and Yatimtaq, all of which are located within 20 miles of the northern town of Sheberghan in Jowzjan province. Natural gas production and distribution is the responsibility of the Taliban-controlled Afghan Gas Enterprise. In 1999, work resumed on the repair of a distribution pipeline to Mazar-i-Sharif. Spur pipelines to a small power plant and fertilizer plant also were repaired and completed. Mazar-i-Sharif is now receiving natural gas from the pipeline, as well as some other surrounding areas. Rehabilitation of damaged natural gas wells has been undertaken at the Khowaja Gogerak field, which has increased natural gas production.

In February 1998, the Taliban announced plans to revive the Afghan National Oil Company, which was abolished by the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Soviet estimates from the late 1970s placed Afghanistan's proven and probable oil and condensate reserves at 95 million barrels. Oil exploration and development work as well as plans to build a 10,000-bbl/d refinery were halted after the 1979 Soviet invasion. A very small amount of crude oil is produced at the Angot field in the northern Sar-i-Pol province. It is processed at a primitive topping plant in Sheberghan, and burned in central heating boilers in Sheberghan, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kabul. Another small oilfield at Zomrad Sai near Sheberghan was reportedly undergoing repairs in mid-2001.

Petroleum products such as diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel are imported, mainly from Pakistan and Turkmenistan. A small storage and distribution facility exists in Jalalabad on the highway between Kabul and Peshawar, Pakistan. Turkmenistan also has a petroleum product storage and distribution facility at Tagtabazar near the Afghan border, which supplies northwestern Afghanistan.

Besides oil and natural gas, Afghanistan also is estimated to have 73 million tons of coal reserves, most of which is located in the region between Herat and Badashkan in the northern part of the country. Although Afghanistan produced over 100,000 short tons of coal annually as late as the early 1990s, as of 1999, the country was producing only around 1,000 short tons.
 
#12
Biped
I have read in the past that China has started massive investment in a copper mine in Afghanistan and that other strategic metals are known to exist.

john
 
#14
Biped said:
...
Are we absolutely sure that Afghanistan has no mineral wealth (gas, oil or yellowcake), and are we absolutely sure that there's no plans for gas or oil pipelines through that part of the world?
...
Bit stuck on pipe dreams I think. Afghanistan is an important bit of real estate but like Iraq it's not resources in the country but what it is near that could matter on the big board.

Iraq has its own oil but more importantly faces the massive oil reserves of Gulf Kingships and represents a buffer between the Sunni Arab world and revolutionary Iran. The US had a massive military presence in The Persian Gulf before it strayed ashore in Iraq. Oil was an important strategic factor here both because it bankrolled Saddam's military and our energy security was threatened by that instrument. Unfortunately sober strategic calculation wasn't what drove this. Rage and having the proven ability and after 9-11 a political window to take Baghdad made it an irresistible prize.

Afghanistan has significant mineral wealth but it is the location matters. I'd dismiss smaller commercial factors here and as in the AT article say the salient point is that as in the time of the Raj its a buffer state with Russia along with the other Stans. This isn't why we invaded, we'd have taken the venture a good deal more seriously if it was and not wandered off to find a more target rich environment. At this point I think DC is more concerned with pacifying Beijing and propping up Pindi's power in Pakistan than encircling Russia with bases of dubious worth. Iran may be more on their mind.

Handicapped by over reach Bush wasn't even willing or able to intervene militarily after Misha invaded South Ossetia. The very strategic BTC pipeline did not save Tbilisi from humiliation. Marked the end of post-Cold War pipe dreams.
 

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