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NATO Trains Afghan Army To Guard Asian Pipeline

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Headlined to H3 12/20/10

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NATO Trains Afghan Army To Guard Asian Pipeline
Rick Rozoff

On December 11 the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan and the energy minister of India met in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat to bring to fruition fifteen years of planning by interests in the United States to bring natural gas from the Caspian Sea to the energy-needy nations of South and East Asia.

Presidents Hamid Karzai, Asif Ali Zardari and Gurbangulu Berdimuhammedov along with Indian Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora signed agreements - an Inter-Government Agreement and the Gas Pipeline Transmission Agreement - to construct a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. The initials of the first three countries involved lend themselves to the project's acronym: TAP, now known as TAPI.

The Inter-Government Agreement "enjoins the four governments to provide all support including security for the pipeline." [1]

The next day, Wahidullah Shahrani, Afghanistan's Minister of Mines and Industries, confirmed that "Afghanistan will deploy about 7,000 troops to secure a major transnational gas pipeline slated to run through some of the most dangerous parts of the war-torn country." [2]

Speaking at a press conference in the Afghan capital, Shahrani added: "This huge project is very important for Afghanistan. Five thousand to seven thousand security forces will be deployed to safeguard the pipeline route....We will also keep an eye on the security situation....If more troops are needed, we will take action." [3]

Four days later U.S. Army Colonel John Ferrari, Deputy Commander of Programs for the NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, was quoted on the U.S. Defense Department's website stating:

"Our mission is to help the government of Afghanistan generate and sustain the Afghan army and police, all the way from the ministerial systems - essentially, their version of the Pentagon - through their operational commands, down to the individual units." [4]

Colonel Ferrari disclosed at the same time that in the next few days the U.S. Army "will finally award a much-delayed $1.6 billion contract for a private security firm to supplement [the] NATO training command's efforts to professionalize Afghan cops." The lucrative bid, according to an American news source, "touched off a bureaucratic tempest between Blackwater/Xe Services and DynCorp, which held an old contract for the same job...." [5] 

On the same day North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen endorsed the U.S.'s Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review released on December 15 and stated:

"We will continue to train Afghan forces so they can provide security for the Afghan people.

"[A]s the long-term partnership that President Karzai and I signed at Lisbon demonstrates, our commitment to Afghanistan will continue well beyond 2014. NATO will also remain engaged with Pakistan....

"I welcome the release today of the United States' annual review on Afghanistan and Pakistan. It builds on the decisions on Afghanistan that NATO Allies and Partners took at our summit in Lisbon." [6]

What the Pentagon and NATO are training Afghan troops for is in part to ensure that the 1,700-kilometer (1,050-mile) TAPI pipeline running from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to India - with transshipment to nations like Japan, South Korea and China in the offing - will function unimpeded.

The pipeline is to be started in 2012, completed two years later and provide 33 billion cubic meters (over one trillion cubic feet) of Turkmen gas to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. According to the recently signed agreement, India and Pakistan will each receive 14 billion and Afghanistan 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year.

The undertaking is being financed by the Asian Development Bank in which the U.S. and Japan each hold 552,210 shares, the largest proportion of shares among its 67 members at 12.756 percent apiece.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/
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