Afghan variable in Asian geopolitics Come Carpentier de Gourdon 25 August 2008
Afghanistan, historic western gateway to the Indian subcontinent and cradle of some of the most ancient Vedic literature, is going through one of its periodic wars of independence, once again struggling to expel from its territory the mostly Anglo-Saxon invaders who are, once more, intent on tightening their control of the Middle East and securing their penetration into Central Asia by occupying this old Indo-Iranian crossroads. Fighting rages as we speak, as the various foreign military contingents are under attack in several provinces of the country and in Kabul itself. American strategy, camouflaged as a methodology for humanitarian, anti-terrorist intervention, is to control the main urban centres of the country – Kabul in order to lock the Pakistani North West; Kandahar as a door to Iranian and Pakistani Baluchistan, and Herat as base to act against Iran . Hobbled by its usual lack of understanding of most of the local geographic and human elements, Washington relies on a mixture of brute high-tech force and bribery – the euphemism for the latter is “winning hearts and minds” and according to on-site witnesses has been spectacularly unsuccessful – to secure the support or at least the neutrality of the leading tribes and factions. The CIA and other American agencies have often supported with weapons and money the traditionally rebellious clans of Pakistan’s NWFP in order to gain their sympathy, notwithstanding the fact that much of the military equipment has been used by those Pushtun chieftains against the regular Pakistani army which the US is currently urging to fight them.
Some observers feel that the US-British leadership would not be averse, depending upon the evolution of the conflict, to the secession of the tribal areas from Pakistan if such a new country could be used as a pad for NATO military facilities. An independent, “pro-Western” Baluchistan, stretching across the present territories of Pakistan and Iran is included in the plans for the Greater Middle East. Northern Afghanistan , dominated by Uzbek and Tajik ethnic elements, is already being used as a base camp for supporting radical guerilla action and political subversion in the adjoining ex-Soviet republics which are regarded either as too closely aligned with their former Russian overlord or too controlled by the new Chinese regional hegemon. The support of the US, British and Israeli governments and semi-private NGOs is very active for a variety of revolutionary, ostensibly radical Islamic or “liberal Pro-Western” movements across the entire Caucasian-Caspian-Turkestan arc – from Chechnya and the other Caucasian republics that are part of Russia to Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish Kurdistan all the way to India’s Kashmir (coincidentally experiencing an acute new crisis) and Tibet and Xinjiang Uighur in China, where the extent of American involvement behind the ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) and the related IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan), set up by Juma Namangani and Tahir Yuldash, trained in Afghanistan, and in Pakistani clandestine warfare facilities such as Muridke, run by the ISI, has been known for long.
Parallels can be drawn with Al Qaeda which was at least initially operated by ex-US covert “native” agents who appear to enjoy considerable protection as only its foot soldiers have been captured with great fanfare while those from higher echelons have either been whisked away under an impenetrable veil of secrecy or are still, reportedly, like Osama Bin Laden, carrying on their activities from hidden locations without being notably disturbed. The recent immigration case of Turkish Sufi religious leader Fethullah Gulen in the US has brought to light legally compelling evidence, from American official sources themselves, that Gulen’s mammoth organization, Nurcus, was operating as a CIA front, with Turkish, Saudi Arab and American support throughout Central Asia as a network of Madrassas and Islamic foundations. Those court documents have been publicized in her “State Secrets Gallery” by whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds, who has long been pointing to a US Central Asian strategy that connects the arming and training of radical Islamic groups with the destabilization of regimes seen as too close to Russia and China or too friendly to Iran, and to plans for the construction of oil and gas pipelines in support of western energy interests (“Court Documents shed light on CIA illegal Operations in Central Asia using Islam and Madrassas” at http://luckery-blogspot.com/2008/07/court-documents-shed-light-on-cia.html). It appears that the USA, despite its official position to the contrary, is in fact supporting the spread of fundamentalist Islam, in the belief that it is not a real threat to its interests in the long run as it is too steeped in history and too remote from the modern “knowledge and finance society” to pose a genuine challenge, contrary to China, Russia, India and Iran which truly threaten Anglo-American technological, economic and cultural supremacy, but can be fought through the proxy of Islamic movements. Many believe in the West that Jihadi radicalism is its own worst enemy and that it devastates the very Muslim countries in which it takes root. Deep internal divisions make it incapable to sustain coordinated action for long between rival factions which often end up destroying each other.
According to the leading Turkish daily Hurriyet, the Nurcus Brotherhood operates a number of companies in Turkey and Central Asia , such as Sarhad, Eflak and Ilhas, as well as various foundations including Toros, Tolerans and Ufuk. Its total assets were estimated at US$ 25 billion and its primary target is believed to be Russian interests in the Caucasus and Caspian-Turkestan region. Its relationship with the AKP Government in Ankara is ambiguous, as it is rumoured to aim for the creation of a more radical Islamic regime in Turkey , even though the AKP and Nurcus seem to share common principles and interests. Nurcus in any event has been closely supported from the US Embassy in Ankara . Ambassador Morton Abramowitz seems to have been very involved in this policy and remains even now an active backer of Gulen, along with his former deputy, Marc Grossman who became Deputy Secretary of State and who is today on the payroll of Ilhas Holding. Abramowitz and Grossman are also connected with Major Douglas Dickerson who was in charge for years of supplying arms to revolutionary movements in the Central Asian area.
Edmonds recalls that Abramowitz was also an adviser to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), hinting that all those theaters are linked in Washington ‘s covert and overt campaign to back a Pan-Asian Islamic nebula of organizations capable of hurting decisively the interests of its major Eurasian rivals. In response, on recommendation of the FSB, the Russian Government has banned the Nurcus Brotherhood and its schools and institutes throughout its territory and has briefed all other member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization about the threat of subversion posed by it.
One of the most visible manifestations of American policy in Central Asia was the creation of the Republic of East Turkestan on Capitol Hill in Washington DC in September 2004, under the aegis of ex-Deputy Director, CIA, Graham Fuller, who authored the Xinjiang Project for Rand Corporation in 1998, foreseeing that the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region of China would break away, presumably under the leadership of the ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement).
Its president Enver Yusuf Turani, who is an American citizen, has become the new Prime Minister of this virtual state and is conducting sporadic guerilla actions and terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and other parts of China. In the weeks leading up to the Beijing Olympics of August 2008, ETIM announced a series of attacks on high-profile Chinese targets and as it turns out, a US supplied and manned arms and munitions depot was located in Kyrgyzstan, not far from the border with Chinese Xinjiang, by Kyrgyz security forces on tips reportedly provided by the Chinese authorities. During his visit to Seoul and Beijing , President Bush used the code words of religious and political freedom in China to show his support for the various insurrections and troubles instigated by Washington to challenge the PRC.
Funding for those clandestine programmes generally escapes constitutional supervision as they are largely financed by smuggling in drugs, armament and radioactive materials. The near complete global monopoly on the heroin trade from Afghanistan involves various players, but it is allegedly controlled from “on high” through proxies such as certain Afghan warlords, Afghan and Pakistani officials, and amorphous organizations like Al Qaeda which is linked with ETIM and IMU and several other terrorist cells.
CIA appears to be a discreet puppeteer behind many of those puppets and Afghanistan is hence a centre of operation for this complex Asian play. “Global Research” and various Russian media such as Vesti have done extensive investigation in the links of US covert agencies and special forces with the narcotics trade and a leading US Drug Enforcement official Thomas Schweich has publicly accused President Karzai, his family and his government of being complicit with or parties to it, echoing long standing charges levied by the Russian Government. At any rate, as noted by Tamara Makarenko, consulting Editor to Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, the NATO occupying forces in Afghanistan have done very little if anything to reduce the geometric rise in opium production and heroin exports out of a state which has truly become “Poppystan“.
In line with this strategy, Afghanistan might also be broken into three parts if they are seen as easier to control by the US and its allies. Kandahar and the South would then be combined with Baluchistan astride the India-Iran axis to wrest Iran ‘s hold over the mouth of the Persian Gulf and pre-empt growing Chinese presence there. Kabul and the Afghan North-West would be used as a watchtower over the subcontinent. Additionally, that region provides access to Kashmir and Tibet that are, in American strategic thinking, potentially future independent states. The current agitation is Jammu and Kashmir can be seen in this context, a certain Independent-ist or Pro-Pakistani Kashmiri organizations enjoy the sympathy and not so covert support of US and other Western Intelligence agencies.
An important factor in this strategic equation is the role of India in Afghanistan . After vainly attempting to involve New Delhi militarily in its Iraqi occupation project, the Bush Administration has spared no effort to bring India willy-nilly into its coalition of supporters within ISAF by arguing for the need of a strategic alliance while pushing the Indo-US nuclear deal, meant to submit India’s diplomacy to Hyde Act provisions that in effect require the country to follow a foreign policy congruent with American interests.
It is of special importance for the US to prevent India from forging any substantial economic or strategic bonds with Tehran . Rather, Washington hopes to co-opt India behind its long-term endeavour to gradually strangle Iran in order to bring it back under Anglo-US control through a combination of sanctions, embargo, internal subversion, blackmail, sabotage and eventual military action.
Historically, USA has been rather successful when applying similar python-like methods to a variety of states, such as Iraq , Zimbabwe and Sudan . It is only when it has directly invaded relatively large countries that it has met with insurmountable obstacles and has been unable to digest its prey.
The second tier of desired Indian involvement in US strategic plans would be the dispatch of a sizable force to Afghanistan in order to support the US-backed tottering government of Hamid Karzai whose possible successor is Zalmay Khalilzad, Afghan-born former US Ambassador who is now Head of the US Mission at the UN. New Delhi has so far resisted the growing pressure to send reinforcements to the ISAF, although it supports the current Afghan regime in a variety of ways.
One of the most obvious reasons for the Indian repugnance is that the Indian sepoys in Afghanistan would effectively have to be under either US or NATO command. Additionally, a direct Indian military intervention on the Afghan theatre, fraught as it is with danger and uncertainty, would inevitably trigger a rise in the quantum of Pakistani covert and overt support to the anti-occupation local guerillas and increase tensions between the two largest South Asian states, possibly escalating into a new full-scale confrontation, impinging directly on the situation in Kashmir.
Washington seems to have hoped that the Indian position on the issue would change as a result of the massive attack on its Embassy in Kabul in July, which New Delhi and the USA both said was directed by the ISI. But this seems to have made the Indian Government even more circumspect, given the close institutional ties known to exist between ISI and the US Intelligence system.
The shift of the American strategy’s centre of gravity for the region to India , demonstrated by the reorganisation of its Central Asian department, falls within the plans to use India as an anchor in the struggle for Asia against China , Russia and their allies.
In this, successive US administrations have only had to steal a page from old British policies, illustrated by Lord Curzon’s diplomacy which defined the Empire’s interests and buffer states from the Balkans to the Himalayas . For the Atlantic Alliance now, as for the British in those days, Afghanistan is a keystone in the military structure designed to chase Russia and China away from the Indian Ocean and the Gulf, while reabsorbing Iran into the Western sphere of influence.
The question is whether India will agree or be forced to compromise on its traditional non-alignment to associate with this new avatar of the English-speaking Empire by joining the Atlantic Bloc, just as other formerly independently-minded states in Europe and Asia have recently had to. The author is Convener, Editorial Board, WORLD AFFAIRS JOURNAL