While the US-led war on terror persists with frantic fervour; both the Iran-Pakistan-India and Trans-Afghan pipelines become the new target in a proxy war for power.
Oil and natural gas, as history tells us, equals bad news for those who have it, or in this case those who have a transport route for it.
The US have had the blueprints for the Trans-Afghan pipeline (TAP) since the mid 1990’s and have thus far kept them successfully out of the spotlight. The TAP would take gas from the Caspian Sea in Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. The major thorn in the side of this black-gold Silk Road is to secure complete control of the region, a plan that proves to be increasingly problematic for the new Obama Administration.
Pakistan is the doorway to Asia and holds the keys to the Middle East, so it comes as no surprise that the current instability in the region serves to bode well for those with ulterior motives.
The last time I was in Peshawar, the largest city in the North West Frontier Province - roughly 60km from the Afghan border - anti US sentiment was running thick on the ground and the tension in the region was palpable.
Not much has changed - and why should it? Pakistan is now, more than ever, in the crosshairs of the US-led “war on terror”, a taboo term, now that US secretary of State Hillary Clinton has deemed the phrase inappropriate.
In a desperate bid to win this never ending “war of the West” the US has increased asymmetric incursions and drone attacks into Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. These continuous covert operations leave very few options on the table for the now flailing Pakistani government and highlight the geopolitical importance of Pakistan and current US intentions in the region. Control.
So what does Pakistan have that the US so desperately wants? Nuclear weapons, a gas route and Osama bin Laden. Iraq only had one, Iran supposedly has one, but Pakistan has got the trifecta - the undisputed sweepstake winner.
The competition to US plans is the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline (IPI), which will deliver gas from Iran to Pakistan and India, and is the proverbial fly in the ointment for the US oil and gas express. The IPI will run through some of the most dangerous regions in the world and could be heading straight into China. These pipes of regional integration have the potential to increase the now unstable diplomatic ties between the neighbouring countries and turn Pakistan into an energy hub. A connection and shift in power that terrifies the United States.
The Trans-Afghan pipeline is the coveted contract that Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s company, seized with the help of the Unocal Corporation in the mid 1990’s. The obvious problems standing between the US and the rich oil and natural gas reserves of the Caspian Basin is a safe transport route and no competition; namely the IPI pipeline, dubbed the “peace pipeline”.
In an address to the US Congress in1998, the vice president for international relations of Unocal, John Maresca, said that the major problem with the Trans-Afghan pipeline was:
… how to get the vast energy resources to the markets where they were needed. Central Asia is isolated. Their natural resources are land locked, both geographically and politically.
The only other possible route is across Afghanistan, which has of course its own unique challenges - we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognised government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company.
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