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Afghanistan: 'Necessary' War for Empire

Gary Olson

We've been down this road before. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recent upbeat assessment that the war in Afghanistan "can still be won" is eerily reminiscent of Gen. William Westmoreland's "light at the end of the tunnel" comments from Vietnam and the early rosy reports from Iraq.

Currently there are 68,000 U.S. soldiers and marines in Afghanistan. There have been 190 American fatalities this year, the highest total in nearly eight years. This year's Pentagon budget for Afghanistan is $65 billion and total costs now exceed $228 billion.

Most Americans now understand that the U.S. war on Iraq had nothing to do with the stated reasons. Afghanistan was sold to the public on multiple fabrications, including defeating al-Qaeda, building democracy, stopping heroin, fighting terrorism, and liberating Afghan women. Not one of these reasons is remotely close to the truth.

The 2001 U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has never been the "good and necessary war" defended by President Obama. Although you never read it in the mainstream media, Washington's primary motive is control of oil. Here, it's not Afghan reserves but Central Asian oil and gas. A long planned $7.6 billion, 1,050 mile oil pipeline running from Turkmenistan to India is called TAPI for Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India. Turkmenistan has the third largest natural gas reserves in the world and Afghanistan is the crucial transit corridor.

Asia Times journalist Pepe Escobar notes that TAPI goes back to the mid 1990s "[W]hen the Taliban were wined and dined by California-based Unocal -- and the Clinton machine." According to insider accounts, negotiations broke down because the Taliban were demanding too much in transfer fees. (Recall that the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden were created by the CIA).

This pipeline would bisect Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province. It also would permit bypassing Iran, one of Washington's key geopolitical objectives. For this to occur, a reliable client regime needs to be established in Kabul, hence the U.S. invasion, occupation, likely escalation. Escobar adds that the possibility of establishing permanent bases "right at the borders of geopolitical competitors China and Russia" is a closely related motive. This is why Afghan civilians and U.S. soldiers are dying.

The slogan "Enduring Coffins for Pipeline and Profits" doesn't have quite the (pseudo) patriotic call to national sacrifice touted in "Operation Enduring Freedom" but it's more truthful. In this narrow sense and from the perspective of Washington elites, the Afghanistan war is "necessary" as necessary as the Pentagon's budget and the 750 bases spread around the globe. For some on the Left it seems to require almost a willful suppression of logic and evidence not to realize that the Obama administration is no less committed to maintaining the empire than previous occupants of the White House.

Adding additional U.S. troops will at best produce a stalemate and a steeply escalating casualty rate. The outcome hinges on whether the American public will exert enough pressure to force a U.S. withdrawal.


Gary Olson, Ph.D., is chair of the Political Science Department at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA.  Contact:

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