Guest Authors

Geopolitical analysis of Afghanistan

WHERE THE POWER LIES

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By


Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai. July 2007

 

 

1.    Introduction and Major Players:


Afghanistan’s strategic position at the crossroads of so many trade routes has for centuries made it vulnerable to invasion by distant as well as neighbouring powers, and this situation persists today.
But a proper understanding of this demands a wider understanding of the whole region’s major players, their current and future strategies, both locally and globally.


Afghanistan has borders with six different countries: China, Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Out of these six countries, three are considered the major players: China, Iran & Russia. The latter held total control until recently over all central Asian states, but despite having this control diminished, it is still able to exercise a considerable amount of influence throughout this region.


2.    CHINA  - No Longer the sleeping Dragon:


China’s rapidly growing economy is leading to a significant military capability, which is now a concern for major Western powers. China’s capability of producing the latest leading-edge military hardware and services places it at the head of military powers in the Asia-Pacific region. As her economy grows, so does the need for energy and raw materials and both are on a steep exponential upward curve.  China has aspirations to control the rich reserves of natural gas and oil of Central Asian States, to feed its rapid economy growth. This desire conflicts directly with what China sees as the strategy of Western Corporations, to exercise a monopoly over these valuable resources.


2.1    Recent Mistakes by Western Powers:


These notably took place during the 1990’s, and although it is all too easy to be wise after the event, it seems surprising that Western governments, notably in Washington and London, failed to learn the lessons of history. The Soviet Red Army was forced to withdraw from Afghanistan and the regime of President Dr. Najibullah collapsed. There then began a deadly civil war between power-hungry men for the control of Afghanistan and during this period the USA and other Western Powers tragically turned their backs on the region that includes Pakistan.


During the Afghan-Soviet war in the 80’s, the US adopted Pakistan as an ally but ignored its acquisition of nuclear capability and forming closer ties with China. Pakistan was later accused of sourcing some nuclear components from China in order to complete its weapons programme. During the 90’s the ties between China and Pakistan grew stronger.


Pakistan realised how the US used Pakistan territory to back the so called Mujahideen (Freedom Fighters) to fight the unbeatable Red Army, and when the task was completed, the US was no longer interested in Pakistan as a primary ally. Thus Pakistan drew much closer to China as an ally and to combat the much greater strength of India, it’s traditional enemy since partition and the ending of British rule.


2.2    China’s Blue Water Strategy and the “ Ring-of-Pearls “:


China’s desire to have access to the Deep Sea Port of GWADER in North-West Pakistan, close to the Strait of Hormuz, contributed to the strengthening of the already close ties between these two neighbouring countries. This strategic interest made Pakistan more important for China, which was well aware of the US strategy regarding the massive Oil and Gas reserves of Central Asia. A principle reason for Chinese interest in developing Gwader port was to have total control of the port and prevent US large corporations from shipping Oil and gas out of the region.


China was aware that the Gala International Company was acting on behalf of giant US Oil Corporations, and its main job was to conclude deals with the Heads of these central Asian States. To take one example, Gala International secured the deal with the former Turkmenistan President, who recently died of a heart attack. Gala International paid him $300 million, as a “Personal Loan”, in order to secure the supply of Turkmen Oil from the Caspian Sea region, believed to Contains some of the World’s Largest Oil reserves.


Vice President of United States of America Mr Dick Cheney, as CEO of Halliburn, a major player in the Oil industry, told Oil industry executives in 1998 “ I can not think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly, to become as strategically significant, as the Caspian Sea”.


When China achieves control of Gwader, it will make it impossible for Western Corporations to transport Oil from this deep-sea port and these Corporations will not be able to do business as they had planned and hoped for. In addition, this total control will form a key part of china’s Blue Water Strategy. To base a rapidly expanding modern Navy in vital ports throughout the Asia Pacific region. This is the planned formation of a “Ring-of-Pearls”, in opposition to the current US control of all maritime routes across this vast area.


3    The Threat from Iran:


Due to the current confrontation between Iran and the Western Powers, especially the US, there is no possibility of US Oil Corporations operating from Iranian deep-sea ports. Iran would like to see China purchasing all the natural gas it needs from Kazakhstan, so it can then sell its natural gas and Oil to Pakistan and India. But Iran is also aware that most Western governments do not wish to see the present Iranian governments receiving such revenues.


Iran feels threatened by the military presence of the US and NATO in Afghanistan. There have been plenty of speculations about a possible US attack on Iran, to cause a regime change, and this is one of the main reasons why Iran is backing the insurgency in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. Some think that it would have been preferable for the US to invade Iran, rather than Iraq under Sadam Hussein, but that Opportunity is now lost, as an invasion during current circumstances could well lead to World War Three.

Iran is clearly supporting a proxy war in Iraq and unfortunately achieving considerable success with this covert Strategy.

Iran is also very much involved in the Afghan affairs and is sending all types of weapons, including Surface-to-Air missiles (SAMS), Road-Side bombs (IEDs),  Sniper-Rifles, cash etc. to known insurgents (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Aiman All Zawahiri). It is also providing the Opportunity for Al-Qaida terrorists to roam around the region. Iran also benefits from great deal of support from within the present Karzai regime in Kabul. Regrettably, Ahmadi nezhad during his visit to Kabul openly expressed & condemned the presence of the US & NATO forces in Afghanistan and asked President Karzai that these forces should leave Afghanistan for the regional stability. In response, President Karzai was speechless. In contrast, President Karzai did not raise the open insurgency of the Iranian regime particularly in the South and south Western Afghanistan.

There is strong evidence that Iranian regime is sending weapons & providing safe heavens for Al-Qaida terrorists to operate well in this region.

Iran is a major contributor to an unwanted war in Afghanistan, against the interests of both the Afghan people and NATO forces. Iran wishes to see these foreign troops become victims of an unceasing spiral of conflict, in which there can be no winners, but Iran is content to exacerbate the problem. But this menace is not restricted to military warfare, as Western economies are also being attacked. According to a report published in Time magazine in 1997, a CIA source established that Iran printed over $80 Billion fake US Dollar-bills, which were circulated around the globe. Iran is using these fake US Dollar-bills to fund unwanted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran, like Pakistan, has nuclear aspirations and has developed close ties with Russia to obtain necessary technology. Some believes that Iran already has a nuclear capability, as Russia is thought to have assembled nuclear bombs for Iran, in exchange for Iranian Oil and financial resources. It is even possible that some of Iran’s fake US Dollars contributed towards Russia’s capital reserves, which are now well over $500 Billion Dollars.


4    The Threat from Russia:


Russian military and economic strength remains a major factor in this region and its long experience of the “Great Game” can never be under-estimated. The all-powerful KGB was never dismantled as many in the Western World believed, being merely re-formed as the FSB, with the backing of the elite paramilitary ALPHA Group, modelled entirely on the British Army SAS. The KGB/FSB used former President Yelstin to display a weak impression of Russia, so the West would think that Russia was in the process of disarmament. Some people, including perhaps the CIA, MI6 and other top Western intelligence agencies, believed that the KGB/FSB had ceased to exist. But much to everyone’s surprise, this powerful Russian agency continued to operate as a normal and has now been further strengthened, with a significant military capability.


At present, Russia continues to exercise strong influence in most central Asian States. For example, Russia has over 20,000 Russian Military personal in Tajikistan. According to Russia’s claim, the troops are there to protect the Afghan Tajik border, also to prevent the Afghan Drugs passing into Tajikistan, but in reality, that is not why these forces are there. It is crystal clear that Russia still wishes to maintain a strong Military presence in these States, close to the border with Afghanistan.


Russia cannot forget its shameful defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of Afghan Fighters, supported by the US and UK in particular. Some believes that Russia would not lose an opportunity for revenge, by encouraging these same fighters to get into prolonged war against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Concern is still felt by the Russian government  about US influence in Eastern Europe, where the installation of state-of-the-art satellite radars, to track in-coming nuclear missiles, is seen as an “Unfriendly Act”, thus encouraging further suspicion.


Russia has many trusted Afghan agents who were prominent members of PDPA (Parcham & Khalq), most leaders of the Northern Alliance, leaders of Junbish-i-Milli-Islami in particular. Most of their agents are enjoying high positions in the President Karzai’s government and are members of the present Parliament. Moscow is also sending many KGB/FSB agents to Afghanistan, posing as businessmen and women. These agents are busy collecting information, designed to help the KGB/FSB to draft short and long-term Strategies.


5    The Threat from Pakistan:


The present regime and government of Pakistan is unstable and fears for its survival. The long-running dispute with India over Kashmir caused Pakistan to create a large Army and acquire a nuclear capability, seen as necessary to its survival in the region. The reasons for Pakistan’s fears are not difficult to understand.

Pakistan was created after partition by the British, just 60 years ago, so it is a fairly new country that wishes to exercise its independence and be an important player on the world stage. It is highly concerned about the apparent US preference for India, after the end of the Cold War. The growing tension between Pakistan and India is a major threat to the region’s stability. Pakistan received a cold shoulder and empty promises from the US for many years, and therefore felt obliged to enter a deeper friendship with China.


Following the controversial plane crash of Military President of Pakistan General Zia-ul-haq, few so-called democratic governments came to power, and corruption was rife. Pakistan’s debts were growing at an alarming pace and reached almost $50 Billion-Dollars. Most of these Loans are from the US, Western countries and the World Bank, all payable at high interest rates.


When the Pakistani Military made a coup and toppled the so-called democratic government of (Nawas Sharief), General Pervez Musharaf becomes the new military ruler of Pakistan. The General quickly created military courts to try all those who had embezzled government’s funds and he also created an organization called National Accountability Courts (NAB) to try corrupt politicians and those officials who had looted Pakistan’s wealth. The General was trying to put the country back on its feet. According to appearances, he was seen as the man who would be saving Pakistan and its geo-political presence in the region.


Many believe that the all-powerful Pakistani Secret Service(ISI), enabled General Musharaf to come to power, when he was not even present in the country in first place. After 9/11, President General Musharaf had radically alter Pakistan’s Afghan policy, under severe US pressure.


In return, Pakistan was expecting the US and UK to pay-off her large debts, also to give substantial further support to Pakistan and invest in Pakistan’s sick economy. While the US air strikes on Taliban’s and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Pakistani President General Musharaf thought to have a understanding with the US President George W Bush, not to allow the Northern Alliance to take control of Kabul, as Pakistan never wished to see the Northern Alliance get into power. But the US failed to keep its promises in this regard. The Northern Alliance, which had strong ties with India, was seen to be a major influence in the Afghan Government and Pakistan was certainly not happy with these developments.


Despite this situation, the US relied heavily on key security information, provided by the (ISI) to the CIA. The US believed that Pakistan was doing an excellent job in this regard and welcomed Pakistan on board, as an ally in it’s “WAR ON TERROR”. But the US was unaware of Pakistan’s double-standards.


The Pakistani (ISI) had long-held suspicions of US intentions in the region. Their Strategists were well aware that the US was about to make some strategic moves in the region, to suit US needs and requirements. According to some speculations, the US wanted to create a Greater India, in order to balance the expanding influence of China. The US strongly believed that China should be prevented from exercising a “Blue-Water Strategy” i.e. unfettered ocean-access. The creation of a Greater India, whose borders reached to the present frontier on the Indus River, would be a positive way to curb China’s influence. Pakistan would have to be dissolved, sindh and Punjab would be joined with India, the N.W.F.P would be part of Afghanistan and parts of Balochistan would also be joined with a greater Afghanistan. The area around borders (Gawdar Port) would be come an autonomous region, controlled by a tribal ruler, such a like the late Akbar Bughti.
This way, the control of Gawader deep Sea port would be entirely in the hands of US.


Such speculations were rapidly shelved, with US military intervention in Afghanistan, followed by the “Shock and Awe” US/UK invasion of Iraq, and the toppling of the regime of Saddam Hussein. The subsequent debacle in Iraq has made the political situation in the Afghan region far worse. It has given fresh energy and wider ambitions to regional powers, to resist the US and NATO in Afghanistan. The arming of insurgents has significantly increased and they now have no hesitation in attacking foreign troops in Afghanistan. Their aim is to maintain the conflict at boiling-point, in order to force these troops to withdraw, and emulate the success they achieved against the Russian Red Army. Pakistan has not been able to see a future as a United States ally, or even to trust them, so this is the main reason why Pakistan has become a member of the close pact between China, Iran and Russia.


We are all aware that most recent events, such as demonstrations, the Red Mosque Siege, the war with Taliban fighters in Waziristan and some suicide attacks within Pakistan are fully orchestrated by the ISI. Some of these events are created to send a strong signal to the West and in some cases the ISI needs to prove itself as being a member of the War on Terror. Many believes that the West is now aware of ISI created incidents, which caused the US to recently announce that it would pursue Al-Qaida into the NWFP, if Pakistan was not capable of dealing with this problem. The widespread bomb-blasts and suicide attacks promptly ceased, following this announcement, which proved the case against the ISI!


Pakistan is playing for very high stakes by siding with China now and no matter what the US does, Pakistan will not revise its policy in regard to its friendship & Strategic partnership with China. At this stage and time. Pakistan is being used to inflame the war against the US and NATO in Afghanistan. Pakistan has great influence with both Afghanistan and China and Russia and Iran wish Pakistan to use this influence, to make the war in Afghanistan as deadly as possible for all foreign troops. There are Four million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan, offering a great opportunity to encourage cross-border terrorism, without being recognised. Pakistan’s double-standards were only traced and revealed about 10 months ago, by the United Kingdom’s Defence Ministry (MOD). More recently, the US also recognised these double-Standards, camouflaged by an apparent siding with the US, as a friend and ally in the War on Terror.


Should Musharaf be deposed, or even assassinated, this will not mean that the Pakistani Military and ISI will no longer be in power, as Pakistan is an ISI-controlled country. Only people who are fully and totally accepted by the ISI will be brought into power, to take charge of affairs. The writer believes that Miss Bennazir Bhutto will never be allowed to be fully in charge, even if she is appointed as Prime Minister, as she will have to live under the thumb of ISI. The world at large is very concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and its government’s ability to attract thousands of fanatics. There is no doubt that Miss Bhutto will not be able to prevent this, as the ISI will continue to exert total control. Most Pakistani political parties are also under severe influence of ISI as well. When General Musharaf was brought to power, the ISI smartly divided the two major political parties, Muslim League and People’s party, into smaller groups. The Jamiat-i-Islami and other religious parties are the core of ISI’s power and influence.


6. Summery and Conclusions:


The US and NATO are now trapped in Afghanistan. The regional players do not wish to see the US or NATO forces leave Afghanistan without sufferings high casualties and bearing large costs, which will adversely effect their respective economies. These regional players have already created and are fully supporting deadly organizations like Al-Qaida, Hekmatyar’s Hezbi Islami and Taliban. They are arming them with the latest hi-tech weaponry that includes surface-to-air missiles, sophisticated roadside bombs and sniper rifles, as well as training for newly-recruited personnel. The most deadly people we need to be watching are members of Al-Qaida, Hekmatyar’s Hezbi Islami and Leadership of Taliban, who are ideologically motivated individuals. Not all Taliban are as deadly as the other two, which means that we still have a chance of wining-over a large number of “good Taliban”, who can be persuaded to resist Hekmatyar’s men and Al_Qaida members. We believe this to be a viable Strategy at this critical Stage.


The threats from Regional Players will soon involve their “Sleeping agents”, such as ex-PDPA members, members of the Northern Alliance, members of the Shiat parties, members of the Junbish-i-Milli Islami of General Rashid Dostum and members of the previouse so-called Mujahideens. Perhaps this pessimistic picture will fail to convince Western Powers, but judging by present developments, this writer is not ruling out the possibility of a greater war being waged on the US and NATO, all over Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the US and NATO forces are losing popularity among the Afghan Nation and there are widespread criticism of many acts committed by these troops.


Too often, due to poor understanding of local problems and lack of poor communications, innocent lives are being lost, notably amongst those vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.


7.    Proposals and Solutions:


We have to act before it’s too late. We need to fully realise that a state of emergency already exists. It is imperative that we make the appropriate changes to the Present regime in Kabul and make this failed regime work as a proper government, consisting of dedicated men with strong determination, coupled with the necessary capabilities to run a qualified, fair, and democratic government.


The “Way Forward” document is a strategic policy proposal, to be considered as the fastest route to bring the Afghan situation under proper control. It will be wise to cure the illness before it becomes fatal, for the future of this country and its region. We must dismiss all current illusions and false hopes that miracles will happen.


Let us accept and understand the present adverse situation and generate a positive strategy, benefit from the lessons of the past and make sure we are winners in this latest episode of the “Great Game”.


Thank you for your interest and Support at this difficult time for my People.

Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai

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