Though not being reported in the mainstream American press, there is a very intense struggle going on between the U.S. and China to determine which nation will emerge as the dominant presence in Central Asia. These two economic giants, the U.S. declining and China rapidly growing, know full well that their economic future depends entirely on their ability to acquire critical resources; in the case of the U.S., it's primarily oil, while with China it's both oil and natural gas.
The specific Central Asian region of which I speak, rich in natural gas and oil, includes India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, among others. Russia, which borders the region and Iran are also key players. Transport of these critical resources via current and planned pipelines is at the center of the struggle to determine who will control them into the future. To understand the magnitude of this struggle we need to begin by examining the strategy that the U.S. is pursuing in Afghanistan and Pakistan as related to its greater objectives in Central Asia.
Our president talks about a surge in Afghanistan; but that represents only the initial stage in the overall strategy that America is pursuing in Central Asia. The real surge will follow as the U.S. becomes more involved with military actions to establish a presence in Pakistan. There has been constant pressure by the U.S. on the Pakistani government to have their troops increase actions against insurgents in South Waziristan near the Afghan border as well as in other Taliban-controlled areas.
The U.S. is also increasing the use of drones in Pakistan in remote areas with the reluctant permission of the Pakistani military. But, apparently, that's not enough and now those operating the drone program want to extend it into Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan; and in its largest city, Quetta. If the leadership of Pakistan allows this very aggressive, misguided use of drones within its cities, then they are opening the door to massive civil violence that could lead to domestic disaster.
So, it becomes apparent where Mr. Obama's surge is heading. Without a doubt, all these moves into Afghanistan and the increasing pressure on the government of Pakistan portend that America will become involved in yet one more war in another sovereign nation. It is also evident that Obama has now fully adopted the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war; that is to strike within the borders of any nation where the U.S. deems the "enemy" exists.
Existing pipelines in Central Asia are currently capable of getting only a fraction of the total potential oil and gas wealth to market. Central Asian nations and Iran are very anxious to sell more gas and oil. The U.S., Europe, Russia, India, Pakistan and China are anxious to buy more. The only thing holding back the desired transport of gas and oil is the construction of new pipelines. That's what this grand chess game is all about and why the U.S. and NATO are right in the middle of all the action and activity.
The reason the U.S. is setting its sights on Balochistan and the city of Quetta is that this area has been identified as a key transit corridor for both natural gas and oil. There are plans for two pipelines that would transit through Balochistan; the IPI is the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline that the U.S. is dead set against because of Iran's involvement. Then there is the U.S. backed TAPI, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline. Unfortunately, the Taliban tribes in Afghanistan are not being cooperative and that's why they must be pacified. This is easier said than done.
In Balochistan, China has provided funds and expertise to construct a deep sea port at Gwadar, which provides China with a transit terminal for crude oil imports from Iran and Africa to China's Xinjiang region. This strategic port, together with rail and road links connecting Pakistan with Afghanistan and Central Asian nations will give China an important opening into Central Asian markets and energy sources. The U.S. is trying to counter these moves by China in every way possible because of its own competing interests.
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