ARTICLE: George W. Bush appointed former aide to the American oil company UNOCAL, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, as special envoy to Afghanistan nine days after the US-backed interim government of Hamid Karzai took office in Kabul. This appointment underscored the real economic and financial interests at stake in Central Asia. Khalilzad was intimately involved in the long-running US efforts to obtain direct access to the oil and gas resources of the region, largely unexploited but believed to be the second largest in the world after the Persian Gulf. As an advisor for Union Oil Company of California (UNOCAL) that was later purchased by Oil giant Chevron Corporation for $17.9 billion in 2005, Khalilzad drew up risk analysis of a proposed gas pipeline from a former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. He participated in talks between the Oil Company and Taliban officials in 1997, which were aimed at implementing a 1995 agreement to build the pipeline across western Afghanistan. So obviously, Khalilzad was also the best "choice" for Trump.
UNOCAL was the lead company in the formation of the Centgas consortium, whose purpose was to bring to market natural gas from the Dauletabad field in southeastern Turkmenistan, one of the world's largest energy reserves. Khalilzad also lobbied publicly for a more sympathetic US government policy towards the Taliban. In an op-ed article in the Washington Post, he defended the Taliban regime against accusations that it was a sponsor of terrorism, writing, ''The Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran.'' He said, ''We should... be willing to offer recognition and humanitarian assistance and to promote international economic reconstruction. It is time for the United States to re-engage the Afghan regime".
The ''re-engagement'', suggested by Khalilzad, would of course have been enormously profitable to UNOCAL, which was otherwise unable to bring gas and oil to market from landlocked Turkmenistan. Khalilzad as close confidante of Bush at National Security Council was to report to Condoleezza Rice, the then National Security Advisor [later became Secretary of State]. After serving in the first Bush administration from 1989 to 1992, Rice was placed on the Board of directors of Chevron Corporation and served as its principal expert on Kazakhstan, where Chevron enjoyed the largest stake among all the international oil companies. The oil industry connections of Bush and Cheney were playing the dominant role in US Afghan policy but entire Western media was portraying it as a war against "terrorists"!
There were just a few dissident voices like that of Frank Viviano who observed in San Francisco Chronicle of September 26, 2001: ''The hidden stakes in the war against terrorism can be summed up in a single word: oil. The map of terrorist sanctuaries and targets in the Middle East and Central Asia is also, to an extraordinary degree, a map of the world's principal energy sources in the 21st century.... It is inevitable that the war against terrorism will be seen by many as a war on behalf of America's Chevron, Exxon, and Arco; France's TotalFinaElf; British Petroleum; Royal Dutch Shell and other multinational giants, which have hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the region''. The reality stated by Viviano in 2001 was well understood in official Washington, but the most influential corporate-controlled media outlets-the television networks and major national daily newspapers-maintained silence that was politically motivated self-censorship. The sole exception was an article that appeared on December 15, 2001 in the New York Times business section, headlined, ''As the War Shifts Alliances, Oil Deals Follow.''
The subsequent invasion of Iraq using the bogey of weapons of mass destruction and appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as US Ambassador there proved beyond any doubt that the reality of 'war on terror' was nothing but quest for OIL. Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele [The Oily Americans, TIME, May 19, 2003] remarkably exposed the dark side of American oil policy from classified government documents and oil industry memos, involving a pair of Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Afghanistan.
Donald Trump faithfully followed the policy of his predecessors. On assuming power, Trump committed more military operations in the war-ravaged country to please the war industry tycoons though as a candidate he promised to withdraw from Afghanistan, as did Barak Obama. No US President was ever interested in countering terrorism. The US and its allies just launched "oil and war bonanzas" around Iraq and Afghanistan with multiple objectives: ensuring continuous enormous profits for war industry; control over oil and gas rich countries and containment of China by physical military presence in its nearby areas-The Globalization of War: America's "Long War" against Humanity by Michel Chossudovsky.
The insistence of Taliban to turn Afghanistan back to their era after the "deal" proves that in reality, "peace" is not the aim, but the hidden agenda is to trigger a new wave of terrorism in the region to contain China using what the Western media is portraying as atrocities against Uighur and other Muslim groups by instigating and funding new and old terrorist outfits.
A story in The Washington Post published before the "deal" noted: "...local leaders in the border provinces of Nangahar and Konar tell a different story. They say Islamic State forces continue to terrorize villagers in areas under their control, forcibly recruiting boys and banning girls from school. They and U.S. officials say that Taliban and Islamic State forces have continued to fight each other, but that they also fear that some Taliban fighters will join the more ruthless Islamic State forces if Taliban leaders make a deal with U.S. officials.
In a story published in TIME magazine after the "deal", it was observed: The U.S. went to war in Afghanistan with one goal in mind: ridding the country of the threat of al-Qaeda just weeks after the group killed nearly 3,000 people in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, after nearly 20 years of fighting in which more than 3,500 American and coalition lives have been lost, President Donald Trump is pushing to withdraw U.S. forces on the back of a wobbly peace deal signed with the Taliban. But a U.N. report released on Monday shows the Islamist militant group has failed to fulfill one of the central tenets of the agreement-that it would break ties with al-Qaeda- undermining Trump's biggest foreign policy win as he seeks re-election in November. Al-Qaeda has 400 to 600 operatives active in 12 Afghan provinces and is running training camps in the east of the country".
Trump clearly said after the "deal" that the USA had enough of its killing Taliban and someone else was to do this work and "it will be the job of surrounding countries". It is an open challenge to China and Pakistan, engaged in mega projects to make China's Belt and Road initiative a success-China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is its flagship project.
United States and its allies, especially India under Modi, have never been interested in uprooting terrorism, rather promoting and funding it. There are certain hidden hands that have been supporting warlords and militants for their nefarious designs to disrupt peace in Afghanistan and create trouble in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan where Gwadar port is developed and managed by state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company China under a 40-year lease granted on April 20, 2017.
The US and its allies keep on accusing Pakistan of supporting and housing Taliban leadership without any evidence. For the "deal" with Taliban, US asked Pakistan to play its role and it facilitated it. As soon as the deal was signed, the US and India started fresh hostilities towards Pakistan. The recent development of ensuring influence of Israel and India to grow in some Muslim States, where most of Pakistani workers and businessmen are working, is to make things more difficult for Pakistan.
Attacking Pakistan through militants, trained and funded by RAW, CIA and Mossad, is aimed at disrupting CPEC and containing China. It unveils the hidden agenda of the US to create conflicts in various regions for benefit of its war industry, grab oil and gas resources, use religion to threaten governments and impose economic policies benefiting multinationals that finance and control their governments.
This also goes a long way in explaining the foreign policy of Pakistan with reference to the region and the gullibility of its rulers from Musharraf to Nawaz, who have been conveniently playing in the hands of the US, jeopardising national interests. It is time now for the government in power to counter the hidden agenda of US as is being done by China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and others. Pakistan must also learn from the Chinese how they skillfully play their cards in international diplomatic arena by countering the hidden and nefarious designs of the US and its allies without entering into arms conflicts that they try to impose in order to destabilise the countries politically and bleed economically.-Concluded.
(The writers, lawyers and authors of many books and articles on terrorism, arms-drugs-trade, are Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS))
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020