Moscow reacts to US buildup in Afghanistan
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Editor, The Konformist
Moscow reacts to US buildup in Afghanistan
By F. William Engdahl
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Feb 6, 2009
Moscow has correctly assessed that the announced Obama troop buildup
in Afghanistan has no relevance to the stated aim of combatting
the `Taliban,' but rather with a new attempt by the Pentagon
strategists to encircle both Russia and China in Eurasia in order to
retain US global military dominance. It is not waiting for a new
policy from Washington. Rather Russia is acting to secure its
perimeter in Central Asia through a series of calculated geopolitical
moves reminiscent of the famous Great Game of more than a Century
ago. The stakes in this geopolitical power game could not be higher --
the issue of world war or peace in the coming decade.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman
Admiral Mike Mullen are asking Obama to double US troop presence in
Afghanistan. Both Gates and Mullen said that while they're thinking
about the war in Afghanistan in terms of a three- to five-year time
frame, their immediate goals are `unclear.' That's highly revealing.
It is clear from the deliberate pattern over months, despite vehement
protest from Pakistan's government, of US bombing attacks on villages
inside Pakistan, allegedly to hit Taliban targets, that the US
intends to widen the conflict to Pakistan as well. What could be the
Militarily, adding 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan could never
secure peace in that war-torn tribal region. It has been documented
that many of the groups whom the US command labels `Taliban' are in
fact armed bands controlled by local warlords, and not ideologically
close-knit Taliban cadre in any sense. By labelling them Taliban,
Washington hopes to convince its NATO allies such as Germany to send
their troops to fight in an unwinnable war. Afghanistan presently has
an estimated 40 percent unemployment and some five million living
below the poverty line. It has been ravaged by more than four decades
of continuous war.
Adding a mere 30,000 more for a total of 60,000 US troops in
Afghanistan where the current killing rate for US soldiers is running
15 times above that in Iraq, is ludicrous. According to the official
US Marine Corps counterinsurgency guidelines, to run a countrywide
counterinsurgency strategy with the absolute minimum force levels
required by US Army and Marine Corps doctrine, the US would need
almost 655,000 troops, or an escalation roughly 600,000 troops higher
than the force levels in the proposed Gates strategy. In fact the US
strategy as it now appears seems to be a replay of the gradual
escalation strategy the US pursued in Vietnam in the early 1960s.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose foreign policy guidance, as
that of her husband, is virtually indistinguishable from the Bush
faction's, has just convened a dinner discussion of leading policy
experts on Afghanistan and South Asia. It included Defense Secretary
Gates, CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, and National Security
advisor Gen. James L. Jones. It follows the appointment of former
Ambassador, and hawk, Richard Holbrooke as the State Department's
Special South Asia Envoy.
In January 2008, more than a year ago, present National Security
adviser to Obama, General James Jones headed a private Afghan Study
Group which recommended drastic steps to `revitalize' the war in
Afghanistan. Revitalize a war whose goals have not even been clearly
formulated? Not surprisingly, Moscow suspects another agenda is at
work when Washington puts such heavy concentration strategically on
the issue of the forgotten "war on terror" in Afghanistan, a region
with no discernable direct national security implications for the
United States or NATO member countries. No conceivable combination in
Afghanistan, a failed state if there ever was one, could threaten a
war of aggression abroad. The tribal warlords around President Karzai
seem to be struggling just to maintain their heroin export flows at
Not surpisingly, the Kremlin has reacted to the US plans for Central
Asia. The president of Kyrgyzstan just flew to Moscow where he
received promises of debt relief and billions of dollars in aid.
Kurmanbek Bakiyev was told he would get a write off of Kyrgyzstan's
$180 million debt to Russia, a $2 billion discounted loan and $150
million in financial aid from Russia. On the occasion, President
Bakiyev announced plans to close a US air base crucial to the war in
Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan has been home to the only remaining US base
in the strategically crucial region to Afghanistan's north.
After the Bush administration declared its "war on terror" and
announced plans to strike Afghanistan to root out the arch evil Osama
bin Laden from the caves of Tora Bora in 2001, Washington secured air
force basing rights in both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
At about that same time, it covertly began preparing to unleash a
series of US-financed `regime change' Color Revolutions in Georgia
(The Rose Revolution, in November 2003) and Ukraine (Orange
Revolution in 2004). It tried and failed in Belarus as well as
Uzbekistan. A glance at a map of Eurasia makes clear the pattern of
those pro-NATO efforts was to militarily encircle the territory of
Russia, especially as at the time Washington believed it had the
government of Kazakhstan in its pocket with military training
agreements and Chevron's large oil investment in Tenghiz.
Once Washington announced in January 2007 that it would station
strategic missiles and advanced radar systems in Poland and the Czech
Republic to `defend against rogue missile attack from Iran,' as I
detail in my soon-to-be-released book, Full Spectrum Dominance:
Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, then-President Putin
told the Munich Wehrkunde conference in February 2007 that the true
target of the US `missile defense' strategy was not Iran but Russia.
Similarly, today the US insistence the Afghanistan military buildup
is about the Taliban, rings equally hollow. That's clearly why Moscow
is acting to secure its borders from a US militarization of the
entire Central Asian region. Oil and gas pipeline routes are a major
consideration, including US wishes to build a natural gas pipeline
from Turkmenistan to India that would deprive Russia's Gazprom of a
vital component of its current gas supply.
The prime objective of the Afghan escalation however, is to draw a
new `iron curtain,' this one between the two formidable Eurasian
powers with the only capacity to challenge future US global
dominance: Russia and China. Should the two former rivals firm up
their cooperation not only in raw materials and industrial economic
trade, but as well in the military cooperation sphere, as Obama
campaign foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has stated, the
combination would present a devastating threat to America's global
Now the decision, aided by the help of generous Russian financial
concessions, to abruptly cancel US Air Force landing rights at
Kyrgyzstan's Manas Air Base deals a devastating blow to US Great
Game's grand strategy to encircle the key powers of Eurasia -- China
When Washington tried to use its various NGOs to foment a Color
Revolution in Uzbekistan in 2005, the country's not-so-democratic
president, Islam Karimov, demanded the US evacuate its air bases,
repatriate US Peace Corps volunteers, and most NGOs were shut down
and foreign media banned. Karimov moved to firm his frayed ties with
Moscow at the time. Today Washington is reported to be feverishly
trying to reestablish itself in Uzbekistan, but the sudden
cancellation of base rights in Kyrgyzstan deals a new devastating
blow to the entire Eurasian encirclement Great Game strategy.
With the major NATO supply routes to Afghanistan going through
Pakistan from the Port of Karachi, and strikes on those supply lines
increasing by the day, the Pentagon is eagerly searching to find
alternative supply routes to the North. Militants just blew up a key
bridge in Pakistan's strategic Khyber Pass.
The securing of alternate Afghan supply routes is at least the
official explanation. Unofficially, it would also provide the pretext
to beef up US military presence in Central Asia. Now, with the loss
of Manas Air Base, a gaping hole in the Washington Great Game `Mach
IV' has been left.
To further complicate Washington's strategy, Moscow is moving to firm
up defense cooperation ties across former Communist states in Central
A Central Asia answer to NATO?
The announcement by Kyrgzystan President Bakiyev that he was
cancelling US basing rights came during his visit to Moscow February
4 for a summit meeting of the formerly moribund Collective Security
Treaty Organization (CSTO), a security grouping comprising Armenia,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
They reportedly agreed to set up a collective rapid reaction force
to `counter military aggression, international terrorism, extremism,
crime, drug-trafficking and deal with emergency situations.' Clearly
the US plans for a major military build-up in Afghanistan were high
on the agenda as well.
The CSTO was established in 1992 to serve as a basis for maintaining
some dialogue between Moscow and her former Soviet republics after
their declared independence, Russia's so-called `near abroad.'
Today the level of talks is taking on a quite new seriousness as US
encirclement operations clearly are seen as a threat to all the
Central Asian republics. The CSTO lists its major security `threats'
as Pakistan and Afghanistan. The decision to create a truly
collective force with a permanent location and a united command would
propel the alliance to a new level.
Russian President Medvedev announced the decision to form the
collective regional CSTO Rapid Reaction Force: `I would like to
emphasise the importance of this decision to establish rapid reaction
forces. It's aimed at strengthening the military capacity of our
organisation.' He claimed the new response units would `not be less
powerful than those of NATO,' adding that `the reason behind the
creation of the collective forces of operative functioning is a
considerable conflict potential which is accumulating in the CSTO
zone.' Translated from the Russian, that means the US strategic build-
up in and around Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At the same time as it hosted the CSTO summit, Russia hosted a
meeting of the so-called Eurasian Economic Community in Moscow,
EurAsEC. That group consists of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Russia and Tajikistan as full members. EurAsEC, established in 2000,
also involves Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine which hold observer
They discussed establishing a $10 billion joint assistance fund to
deal with the effects of the global economic crisis, as well as
establishing an international hi-tech technology exchange center and
implementing various innovative projects in member countries.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev captured the vulnerability of
Washington's exposed hypocrisy in Afghanistan when he told the press
after the Moscow summit, `We are ready for full-fledged and equal
cooperation on security in Afghanistan, including with the United
States.' That of course is the last thing the Pentagon strategists
wish to hear.
F. William Engdahl is author of "A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil
Politics and the New World Order" (Pluto Press) and "Seeds of
Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation"
(www.globalresearch.ca ). His new book, "Full Spectrum Dominance:
Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order" (Third Millennium
Press) is due for release in late Spring 2009. He may be reached via
his website: www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.