Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Great Game and Afghanistan

The United Kingdom and Russia were vying for capturing the Central Asia during the 19th century. The United Kingdom was approaching from the Indian side, whereas the Russians were heading toward India while capturing Central Asia. Unfortunately, the Afghan soil was the center of this great game and Pashtuns were its fuel at that time. Both countries were using Afghanistan as a buffer state and playing this game from the Afghanistan soil. The tenure of this classical great game started with Russia-Prussia war in 1813 and ended on Anglo-Russian Convention in 1907. A British intelligence officer, Arthur Konolly had given this title to a geopolitical and strategic war and he had named the entire Central Asia the Great Chessboard. Rudyard Kipling later on gave this great game an unmatched fame and a romantic status in his novel the KIM.
War of Capturing Resources
This new great game is a war of capturing resources, particularly oil, its supply routes, pipelines and mineral resources more than just occupying territories. Another fundamental difference between the two is that the United Kingdom and Russia were the major players in the old great game, whereas Iran played a side role from time to time along with them; whereas, in the new game, a large number of regional and international powers are involved and the fuel are again the Pashtuns and to an extent Pakistanis. The players in this war include, in addition to the United States, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its allies, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Tajikistan of Central Asia, population of which is even less than 2,000,000.
This war is becoming the most expensive war of all times. Only the United States spent $130 billion in 2010 ($4 billion for social sector, and that too, with a number of conditions because of which the entire amount could not be released) (Parenthesis as published). This expenditure earlier amounted to $50 billion to $65 billion. The expenditure incurred by other countries is in addition to this. With regard to life losses, too, this war is becoming unbearable for the United States and its allies. The number of casualties and injured troops is increasing with each passing day. So far, more than 3,000 US and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops have died, whereas number of injured troops stands close to 8,000. However, according to independent sources, number of casualties and wounded troops could exceed these estimates because the Americans and ISAF sources are trying to fudge the numbers due to public reaction.
As far as the Afghans are concerned, they -- according to famous poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz -- consider their flesh and blood part of the soil so it became food of the soil (means the body went back to its origin). Majority of the troops, who have returned to their home countries, are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Their treatment, including physical ailments, will cost approximately $650 million. On returning home, these troops assume strange behavior. Some limit themselves within their homes; and some join those Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which help people in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to the US Anti-Suicide report, approximately 100 out of these returnees commit suicide every year, whereas, approximately 200 are prevented from committing suicide. Different countries want to have a stake in these countries because of their natural resources and strategic importance.
Natural Resources and Strategic Importance
Let us have a look at the natural resources and strategic importance of this region. The oil experts say huge quantity of oil is present under the Caspian Sea. In addition, the world's largest natural gas reserves are present in Turkmenistan and other Central Asian countries. According to survey, conducted during the erstwhile Soviet Union times, 73 million tons coal, 100 billion barrel oil (it appears to be somewhat incorrect) (parenthesis as published) and 5 trillion cubic ft natural gas is present in Afghanistan.
In addition to this, the American National Geological Society conducted another survey in 2007 but released its report in 2010, which says that huge reserves of copper, gold, cobalt and raw iron, which value at $1 trillion, are present on the Afghan side of the Durand Line. The nature's distribution does not observe the geographic limits, set by human beings. It means that there could be huge reserves on the other side of the border, too (means, on Pakistani side). The Pentagon has compared and declared the Lithium reserves here at par with Saudi Arabia's oil reserves. In modern life, Lithium assumes the same importance as the oil, because no battery can be manufactured without Lithium. It is abundantly used in manufacturing several products.
China has initiated a $3 billion project in ionic copper mines, situated in Lugar Province of Afghanistan. It means the Pakistan-Afghanistan Pashtun belt is important as a transit route and it is also full of natural resources.
To benefit from these resources, the United States had first planned to lay a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, and then to India and the Arabian Sea. The US firm, Unocal, Bredas of Argentine, and a Saudi company were competing to get the contract for this project. The US firm, Unocal had already spent lot of money on conducting feasibility study and had also arranged funding from international institutions, but the Taliban awarded contract to Bredas, which stunned the United States. Approximately four months before the 9/11 attacks, the US delegation informed every one and particularly Pakistan, during an international conference in Bonn that the Taliban had now become unbearable. And their government will be toppled by the end of the year.
The CIA initiated contacts with Ahmed Shah Masood; otherwise, ZalmayKhalilzad, while representing the US Government, had expressed support to the Taliban in his article, published in The New York Times only two days before this contact (with Ahmed Shah Masood by the CIA was established). In this article, Zalmay had also reprimanded the European countries for banning women veil. The write had suggested the European governments that they should not impose their culture on Afghans, as observing veil is a centuries old Afghan tradition.
The 9/11 attacks provided them (the United States and allies) a golden opportunity and they invaded Afghanistan, which unleashed a new process of destruction and devastation, because the war (in Afghanistan, allusion to Russian invasion of Afghanistan) had, in fact, started 20 years ago before the 9/11 attacks.
Cultural and Religious Influence
From a strategic importance point of view, four historic areas surround this region. Wild tribes, be they in the form of Scythians, White Huns or Mughals, have always marched from the northern plains, Steppe; and finally, Russia's march through Central Asia toward warm waters and Afghanistan and then expansion of Chinese empire from south to the east; and arrival of Indian cultural and religious influence from northwest side.Afghanistan is situated in the southwest of the Middle East region and Wakhan corridor is also situated here, borders of which, touch Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-administered Kashmir) in the south, Tajikistan in the north and China in the east. During 10-year erstwhile Soviet Union war, this was under their occupation; and the United States is also staying here. Iran is also situated in the same area; and Gwadar Port, which is placed as a modern port right at the edge of Asian Gulf, is situated on its eastern side.

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