Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Fatal avalanches in America in the last couple of weeks have caused major concern, but none were this bad.
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Dozens killed in Afghanistan avalanche
Aljazeera online
6 March 2012

Army helicopters sent to Badakhshan, a province on the Tajikistan border, where an entire village is buried under snow.

At least 42 people have died in an avalanche that hit a village in northeastern Afghanistan, local officials say. Hundreds more remained trapped on Tuesday under the snow, according to the officials. The avalanche covered at least one village in Badakhshan province, near the border with Tajikistan.

Afghan army helicopters descended on the north of Badakhshan to try to rescue the trapped families.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years has led to the deaths of 24 children in IDP camps around Kabul. Six people injured in the snow were evacuated to neighboring Tajikistan for emergency medical treatment.

Hundreds of household animals perished and a number of houses are said to be destroyed in Tuesday’s avalanche, according to Afghan media outlets.

“The way to the village is closed, it is covered in snow,” Abdul Marof Rasikh, spokesman for Badakshan’s governor, said of the village of about 300 people accessible only via helicopter, located in the Shekay district. According to the Pajhwok news service, a hundred residents of nearby villages were the first to reach the site.

The residents launched a rescue effort with their bare hands and shovels, officials told the local outlet. Rasikh told Al Jazeera that it is believed the entire village has been buried under snow.

Freezing cold and avalanches have already claimed the lives of 60 people in Badakhshan this winter. Among them were 35 children who died over two days in late February after roads to districts were blocked by heavy snow.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/03/201236144644671395.html

(Why Americans should care about “the rest of the story” in Afghanistan.)

From The Wonders Of Pakistan blog online
24 Nov 2011

“If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in the Afghan war], one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.”

In January 2009, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then NATO Secretary General, said, “Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there’s a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.”

These comments suggest that NATO troops could be called upon to assist Afghanistan in protecting the pipeline. Since pipelines last 50 years or more, this could auger a very long commitment in Afghanistan.

EURASIA’S PIPELINE TANGLE
by Abdus Sattar Ghazali

On November 14, Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an agreement to build the $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project under which Pakistan will get 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of gas. The agreement was signed during a visit by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan to Islamabad.

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline, first proposed in early 1990s, will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India….

The original project started on 15 March 1995 when an inaugural memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan for a pipeline project was signed. This project was promoted by Argentinian company, Bridas Corporation.

The U.S. company Unocal, in conjunction with the Saudi oil company Delta, promoted alternative project without Bridas’ involvement. In 1995, Unocal signed an $8 billion deal with Turkmenistan to construct two pipelines (one for oil, one for gas), as part of a larger plan for two pipelines intended to transport oil and gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into Pakistan. In August 1996, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) consortium for construction of a pipeline, led by Unocal, was formed.

Since the pipeline was to pass through Afghanistan, it was necessary to work with the Taliban. In January 1998, the Taliban regime, selected CentGas over Argentinian competitor Bridas Corporation, and signed an agreement that allowed the proposed project to proceed.

In 1997, representatives of the Taliban are invited to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future President George W. Bush is Governor of Texas at the time. The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children ‘despicable,’ appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.”

It was reported that the Taliban met with Enron officials while in Texas. Enron, headquartered in Texas, had a large financial interest in the pipeline at the time.

On April 17, 1998, Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul. (All such meetings were illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.) US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a “fabulous opportunity” and are especially motivated by the “prospect of circumventing Iran, which offers another route for the pipeline.” [Boston Globe, 9/20/2001]

On December 5, 1998, Unocal announces it is withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. President Clinton refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, making business there legally problematic.

Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]

The TAP project was revived less than one month after the 9/11 attacks when US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin meets (Oct 9, 2001) with the Pakistani oil minister to brief on the gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan, across Afghanistan, to Pakistan, which appears to be revived “in view of recent geopolitical developments.” [Frontier Post – 10/10/2011]

On May 30, 2002, Afghanistan’s interim leader, Hamid Karzai (who formerly worked for Unocal), Turkmenistan’s President Niyazov, and Pakistani President General Musharraf meet in Islamabad to sign a memorandum of understanding on the trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project.

TAP is consistent with the US declared policy of linking Central and South Asia and diversifying export routes for Turkmen gas.

The proposed 1,680 kilometres pipeline could carry one trillion cubic metres of Turkmen gas over a 30-year period, according to Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Bayramgeldy Nedirov. But the route, particularly the 735 kilometres Afghan leg, presents significant security challenges.

In January 2009, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then NATO Secretary General, said, “Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there’s a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.”

These comments suggest that NATO troops could be called upon to assist Afghanistan in protecting the pipeline. Since pipelines last 50 years or more, this could auger a very long commitment in Afghanistan. [Journal of Energy Security, March 23, 2010]

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline (TAPI) agreement has been signed at a time when Washington is pressing Islamabad to abandon the pipeline project to supply Iranian gas to Pakistan.

Washington has never tried to hide its opposition to Pakistan`s plans for importing gas from Iran and has always pressured it to seek alternate options. The purpose has been to isolate Tehran in the region over its nuclear program. Apparently, it was under US pressure that India decided to opt out of the project in 2009. In return, New Delhi successfully secured US cooperation for its civil nuclear power projects in 2008.

In January 2010, the United States asked Pakistan to abandon the pipeline project. If canceling the project, Pakistan would receive assistance from the United States for construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal and importing electricity from Tajikistan through Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. [Times of India – Sept 7, 2009]

On April 12, 2010, Iran announced that it has completed construction of 1,000 kilometers of the pipeline out of the 1,100 kilometers portion on Iranian soil. On this Iranian ambassador to Pakistan said that “Iran has done her job and it now depends on Pakistan”. The construction of the pipeline on Iranian side is on pace to be completed by 2011.

….

According to newspaper reports on 17 June 2011, Iran has given up talks with India on the pipeline and is pursuing the pipeline bilaterally with Pakistan. In July 2011, Pakistani minister for petroleum and natural resources announced that Iran has finished its work on laying the pipeline and Pakistan would start the work for building the pipeline within the next six months.

In November 2010, a Wikileaks cable disclosed that American diplomats had said it was “unlikely that Iran would build a gas pipeline to Pakistan.” Washington opposes the deal because of the economic benefits for Tehran, which has been subject to the United States and international community’s sanctions against Iran. The diplomatic cable noted that the planned pipeline would not move forward because, “the Pakistanis don’t have the money to pay for either the pipeline, or the gas.” [Wikipedia]

The 2,775-kilometre (1,724 mi) pipeline will be supplied from the South Pars field. It will start from Asalouyeh and stretch over 1,100 kilometres (680 mi) through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Balochistan and Sindh. In Khuzdar, a branch would spur-off to Karachi, while the main pipeline will continue towards Multan. From Multan, the pipeline may be expanded to India.

Commenting on the TAPI agreement, Pakistan’s leading newspaper The Nation said: “Pakistan seems to have succumbed to US pressure and sacrificed its national interest in pursuit of the American desire to bypass Iran.”

The paper said, apart from the relative merits of the projects, one of the biggest services the present government can perform for the USA is to give the impression that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is in any way a substitute for the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline.

The Nation emphasized that Pakistan needs both the projects if it is to meet the gas shortages that have already hit the country in the past, and which will further worsen, reaching new heights this winter.

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The writer Abdus Sattar Ghazali is Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: http://www.amperspective.com email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

http://wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/the-politics-of-gas-pipelines-in-asia/#more-25322

Afghanistan won’t go away, in my opinion. Read current entry on www.bettecox.wordpress.com. Here are two interesting articles.

American and Afghan Troops Begin Combat for Kandahar
http://www.nytimes.com
September 26, 2010

ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan — American and Afghan troops have begun the active combat phase of a military operation designed to drive the Taliban out of districts around the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar city, military officials said Sunday.

Code-named “Operation Dragon Strike,” the push is focusing on clearing the Taliban from three districts to the west and south of the city, said Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, a NATO spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. “We expect hard fighting,” he said.

The aim, he said, would be “destroying Taliban fighting positions so they will not have anywhere to hide.”

The operation is the first large-scale combat involving multiple objectives in Kandahar Province, where a military offensive was originally expected to begin in June. That offensive was downgraded to more of a joint civil-military effort after the military encountered problems in trying to pacify the much smaller city of Marja and because of resistance from Afghan leaders concerned about the possibility of high civilian casualties.

During the last week of August, at the instigation of Afghan authorities, American troops supported a major push into the Mehlajat area on the southwest edge of Kandahar city, driving them from that area but with few casualties on either side. At the time, military officials said that was the beginning of what would be an increase in active combat operations around Kandahar.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/world/asia/27afghan.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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Here’s another article, which gives a little insight into the one above…

Afghanistan and the new great game
http://www.thestar.com
12 Aug 2009

Prized pipeline route could explain West’s stubborn interest in poor, remote land.

Why is Afghanistan so important? A glance at a map and a little knowledge of the region suggest that the real reasons for Western military involvement may be largely hidden.

Afghanistan is adjacent to Middle Eastern countries that are rich in oil and natural gas. And though Afghanistan may have little petroleum itself, it borders both Iran and Turkmenistan, countries with the second and third largest natural gas reserves in the world. (Russia is first.)

Read the rest of the article here:
http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/679670

I’ve been reading opinion pieces questioning the continued U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Reasons given by the administration don’t make common sense, in many minds. For the last year or so I’ve been looking at this situation from a different perspective: “Follow the oil.” (See previous entries on the Caspian Sea.) Here’s an article from UPI online dated August 5, 2010 that adds to my interest.

MOSCOW, Aug. 5 (UPI) — The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline, first proposed in 1995, is back on the drawing boards.

The TAPI technical working group’s executive committee — originally the Trans-Afghan Pipeline, “TAP,” now “TAPI” with the inclusion of Pakistan and India — stated that construction of TAPI could maintain and strengthen political stability throughout Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Itar-Tass reported Thursday.

Stretching 1,043 miles from Turkmenistan’s Dauletabad gas field to the northwestern Indian town of Fazilka, the $3.3 billion pipeline’s annual throughput of 33 billion cubic meters will be delivered to consumers in Pakistan and India after transiting Afghanistan.

Despite the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan, in 2005 the Asian Development Bank financed technical feasibility study.

The project has a long genesis. In 1996 a memorandum of understanding resulted in the establishment of a consortium led by Unocal, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline Ltd. A Taliban delegation subsequently visited Unocal headquarters in Texas and in January 1997 the Taliban approved TAP’s construction. Afghanistan’s current President Hamid Karzai at the time worked for Unocal.

Whatever chances the project had were set on hold in the rising chaos in the aftermath of November 2001’s Operation Enduring Freedom, which quickly drove the Taliban from power, invalidating the arrangements.

Despite Karzai’s persistent support for the project, security of TAPI’s route through Afghanistan remains a major impediment to the project’s realization, though in 2008 the Afghan government made several pledges to relieve those concerns.

As the Obama administration is continuing its predecessor’s policy of containment and isolation of both Russia and Iran, TAPI is currently the most significant undeveloped southern output project for Central Asian natural gas and oil.

A problem with TAPI that has yet to be addressed is whether Turkmenistan will be able to provide the required throughout, should the natural gas pipeline be built.

At present Turkmenistan exports pipeline gas to China, Russia and Iran. In 2006 Turkmenistan produced 62.2 bcm of natural gas, second only to Russia. With 2005 domestic consumption estimated at 17.07 bcm, approximately 45 bcm, or more than two-thirds of Turkmen production, was available for export.

The three above-mentioned countries now account for virtually all of Turkmenistan’s exports for the foreseeable future. Most notably, recently a Turkmen-China natural gas pipeline agreed in 2006 capable of handling up 30 bcm annually came online, providing an export route for Turkmen natural gas exports for the near future.

How TAPI, which at present would be constructed through a war zone, could compete with Turkmenistan’s pre-existing markets in China, Russia and Iran remains to be seen.

http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2010/08/05/TAPI-natural-gas-pipeline-through-Afghanistan-revived/UPI-84281281037736/

Also see – many maps, including proposed pipelines:

http://www.thedossier.ukonline.co.uk/maps_charts.htm