US outed, and far from drawn down

US outed, and far from drawn down

By M K Bhadrakumar

The United States-Pakistan relationship has reached a turning point reminiscent of the run-up to October 1958, when Washington encouraged General Ayub Khan’s coup, apprehending the coming into power of an elected government in Pakistan that might have refused to collaborate as the US’s Cold War ally against the Soviet Union.

An innocuous-looking thing happened on Sunday – Pakistan regained possession of the Shamsi air base in Balochistan near the border with Iran after evicting the US military presence from there. The base itself had been leased to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 1992.

The event is at once symbolic and tactical, while at the same time highly strategic even as war clouds are on the horizon over Iran. Symbolic in the sense that it is an assertion of Pakistan’s sovereignty; tactical because the US war strategy, which heavily depended on the drone attacks on North Waziristan, will now have to be reworked. Is the drone era in the Afghan war coming to a brusque end?

However, in all of this, what needs some careful analysis is why the US’s eviction from Shamsi holds strategic implications.

A mild stimulus 
Washington initially viewed Islamabad’s decision to expel the US personnel and drone systems from Shamsi with disbelief as a knee-jerk reaction by the Pakistani generals upset over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) air strike on the border post at Salala in the Mohmand Agency on November 26, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Thus, Washington pressed its ally the UAE into a mediatory role.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zeyed al-Nahyan met President Asif Ali Zardari to seek revocation of the Pakistani decision or at least an extension of the 15-day deadline, but returned empty-handed. On getting the bad news from the sheikh, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, which was followed by a call a day later by President Barack Obama to Zardari.

Both Clinton and Obama drew a blank and thereafter the Pentagon reluctantly began the evacuation from Shamsi.

Clearly, the US underestimated the downstream consequences of the November 26 attack on Pakistan. Pakistani director general of military operations, Major General Ashfaq Nadeem told the federal cabinet and the parliament’s defense committee last week in a detailed briefing in Islamabad that the NATO attack bore the hallmark of a well-planned “plot” by the US and NATO command in Afghanistan.

If the likely US intention was to “engage” the Pakistani military leadership with a mild stimulus of “shock and awe”, it proved counter-productive. The civil-military leadership in Pakistan still continues to talk in the same voice. Gilani’s “ex-post facto” endorsement of army chief General Ashfaq Kiani’s decision to deploy the defense systems on the Afghan border to “detect any aircraft or helicopter and to shoot it down”, at their meeting in Islamabad on Saturday is the latest evidence of this.

But the crux of the matter is that the Obama administration has once again ceded policy to the Pentagon. With the Central Intelligence Agency also headed by an army general, David Petraeus, the Pentagon is pushing through a long-term military presence in Afghanistan although a political solution is Obama’s stated goal. The US military aims to step up the fighting. The “drawdown” strategy outlined by Obama last year is being conveniently reinterpreted for this purpose.

The US’s most recent statements have shed the strategic ambiguity over the “drawdown” and it is now crystal clear that tens of thousands of American combat troops are after all going to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 for an indeterminate future in addition to the trainers and advisers devoted to “capacity-building” of the Afghan armed forces.

The New York Times noted that Pentagon had been “quietly pushing” for this policy shift for some time. In essence, even as the negotiations over the US-Afghan strategic pact paving the way for the establishment of American military bases in Afghanistan have come to the final stage, the US is discarding the strategic ambiguity about the scope and nature of its long-term military presence.

Demand-driven partnership 
This shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But Pakistan is facing a difficult situation. Contrary to Pakistan’s line of thinking that the military path is futile, the US is sticking to the “fight-talk” approach, which is to go on fighting while exploring the scope for opening talks with a militarily degraded Taliban from a position of strength.

Two, the US is not willing to concede a central role for Pakistan in the peace talks and is non-committal about Pakistan’s wish to have a “friendly” government in Kabul, because it seeks to choreograph a settlement that first and foremost would meet the needs of its regional strategies.

Three, paradoxical as it may seem, the continued fighting actually suits the US in the coming period, because it not only provides the justification for the long-term deployment of combat troops in Afghanistan despite regional (and Afghan) opposition but also gives the raison d’etre for the Northern Distribution Network (read US-NATO military presence in Central Asia), which Russia is showing signs of linking to the resolution of the dispute over the US’s missile defense system and the dissipation of the US-Russia “reset”.

Over and above all this, Obama’s decision to keep a large force of combat troops in Afghanistan needs to be viewed against the backdrop of the growing tensions in the US-Iran relations. In the eventuality of any conflict with Iran in a near future, this sort of massive military presence on Iran’s eastern flank would be a great strategic asset for the US and NATO.

Make no mistake, the US intends to use the military bases in Afghanistan as a springboard to invade eastern Iran if conflict erupts, no matter what President Hamid Karzai may think or say. By the way, Shamsi is also key air base close to the Iran border. Unsurprisingly, NATO is considering a “joint center” in the Persian Gulf region with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Thus, the US hopes to “box in” Iran militarily from the Persian Gulf on one side and Afghanistan on the other.

Indeed, NATO is fast transforming as a “smart alliance” based on a security partnership between the 28 members and the rest of the world, thanks to the military intervention in Libya. Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to NATO, put it explicitly in a recent briefing:

The Libya operation was a logical outflow of the view that we need to have partnerships with countries around the world … The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Morocco not only supported the operation, but also participated in it … Lebanon was also a key in the operation, as it was president of the UN Security Council at that time and enacted the 1973 resolution … This is a demand-driven partnership. A demand by Arab countries.

All in all, therefore, the “hidden agenda” of the Afghan war is out in the open. Pakistan finds itself between the devil and the deep blue sea. First of all, the Pakistani military distrusts the US’s intentions behind such large-scale intelligence penetration of its security apparatus in the recent years under the pretext of the “war on terror”, including the Inter-Services Intelligence and the military. In particular, the military leadership fears that the US harbors intentions of seizing Pakistan’s nuclear assets at an opportune moment.

Obama’s unprecedented decision to promote Petraeus as the Central Intelligence Agency head rang alarm bells in the Pakistani mind. Second, US interests and priorities in Afghanistan are increasingly in conflict with Pakistan’s. Third, Pakistan simply cannot afford to alienate China and Iran (or Russia for that matter). Finally, the US will sooner or later deploy its missile defense system in the region, which will threaten Pakistan’s strategic capability.

Shaking the albatross 
The message of the US strike of November 26 was a test case intended to “soften up” the Pakistani military leadership and compel it to fall in line with the US’s strategy. Sheikh Nahyan tried to talk some good sense into the minds of the Pakistani generals. But the Shamsi episode underscores that the contradiction in US-Pakistan relations is far too acute to be reconciled easily or in a near term.

The point is, it is turning out to be contradiction of a fundamental character. The implications are serious. Pakistan is “obstructing” the US’s regional strategy. Put differently, Pakistan is a vital cog in the wheel of the US strategy.

Pakistan dissociated openly from the agenda of the recent Istanbul conference (November 2), which aimed at creating an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe-type regional security mechanism for Central and South Asia and launching the New Silk Road project aimed at rolling back Russian and Chinese influence in Central Asia. Pakistan also boycotted the Bonn conference (December 5) that was expected to legitimize the long-term US military presence in Afghanistan. To be sure, the two events floundered.

Washington is now left guessing whether Pakistan’s strategic defiance is for real. Its historical experience is that the Pakistani elites eventually buckle under American pressure. But the “strategic defiance” over Shamsi would come as a surprise. Meanwhile, by ceding Afghan policy to the Pentagon (and CIA), Obama has taken the precaution of minimizing the scope of this problem area causing controversy during his re-election bid next year. Petraeus is also well liked by the Republicans.

This is an “Ayub-Khan moment” in the US-Pakistan relationship. Once again, popular opinion in Pakistan threatens to intrude into the relationship. But then, there are key differences, too. Kiani is far from the jovial Sandhurst-trained general Ayub Khan was, who was fond of his drink and all good things in life and was used to obeying orders.

Besides, China is not only not the Soviet Union or an adversary of Pakistan, but is in reality its one and only “all-weather friend”. How can or why should Pakistan possibly collaborate with the US’s containment strategy toward China?

The most important difference between 1958 and 2011, however, is, firstly, that Kiani’s “nativist traditions” require him to act within the collegium of corps commanders who are acutely conscious of the mood within the armed forces, which is that Pakistan should shake off the albatross that was hung around its neck in late 2001.

Second, the Pakistani army is taking great and meticulous care that while traversing the shark-infested waters in the months ahead, it holds the hands of the country’s civilian leadership at every stage, every moment.

The challenge facing the US is to locate an Ayub Khan, but it is an improbable challenge.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

US commander defends night raids in Afghanistan

 

FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 file picture taken with a night vision scope, Afghan women and their children are asked about their male relatives as U.S. Special Operations forces and Afghan National Army soldiers search their home during a joint operation targeting insurgents operating in Afghanistan’s Farah province. The U.S. Special Operations commander who directed the operation that killed Osama bin Laden defended the unpopular night raids on homes in Afghanistan that have provoked the fury of the country’s president and held up a security agreement with the United States. Adm. William McRaven also backed a training program his troops run for village police forces _ an initiative that some fear could spawn militias and new violence. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)
By Patrick QuinnAssociated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan—The U.S. Special Operations commander who directed the operation that killed Osama bin Laden defended the unpopular night raids on homes in Afghanistan that have provoked the fury of the country’s president and held up a security agreement with the United States.

Adm. William McRaven also backed a training program his troops run for village police forces — an initiative that some fear could spawn militias and new violence.

McRaven, who leads the U.S. Special Operations Command, said in a rare interview with journalists late Saturday that the U.S. understands Afghan concerns about night raids and has allowed its partner Afghan forces to take the lead in those and other operations.

“At the end of the end of the day I think you would find that night raids are very valuable when you are trying to get someone who is trying to hide,” McRaven said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for an end to the raids, in which troops borne in by helicopter search homes, because he says the forces conducting them treat too many civilians as if they were insurgents and violate privacy in an intensely conservative society. The deaths they cause — although relatively few in number — have made them unpopular with many Afghans.

Afghan citizens, Karzai says, cannot feel secure if they think armed troops might burst into their homes in the middle of the night.

McRaven, who would not answer questions about the May raid that killed bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan, said the United States was discussing the future of night raids with Afghanistan’s government.

Around 2,800 raids against insurgent targets have been carried out in the past year, he said. But in 85 percent of them, the forces involved never fired a shot.

“In that time the civilians casualties were less than 1 percent. The number of times we engaged was about 15 percent,” he said.

Karzai convened a traditional national assembly known as a Loya Jirga last month that stopped short of demanding a complete end to night raids. Instead, it asked that they be led and controlled by Afghan security forces — a demand that the U.S. says it has met.

Still, the issue has held up the signing of a security agreement with the U.S. that could keep thousands of American troops here for years beyond the 2014 deadline for most international forces to leave. Remaining U.S. troops would train Afghan forces and assist with counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, told reporters Saturday the raids will be a topic of debate when the two countries return to the negotiating table to discuss their strategic partnership.

McRaven’s command is involved in training Afghan commandos — 8,200 so far — as well as special forces and local police known as ALPs.

U.S. special forces have been training the village-level fighting forces in hopes of countering the Taliban insurgency — a concept similar to the one that turned the tide of the Iraq war.

But the ALP initiative has stirred worries it will legitimize existing private militias or create new ones. Warlord-led militias ravaged Afghanistan in the 1990s, opening the way for the Taliban takeover.

McRaven said he had not seen any evidence that the groups were fueling local rivalries. He said there was no decision to increase the number of ALP’s, although “my instinct is yes to increase, but that remains to be seen.”

The Afghan government has agreed to have about 30,000 of the ALP forces trained by the end of 2013. They will be located across 99 districts around the country at a cost of about $170 million a year. The forces are not meant to replace the Afghan army or police, but complement them in some areas.

“The real advantage for the ALP … is the ability for Afghans from their local districts to protect their own homes,” McRaven said.

World Bank to allocate $1.3 billion to Uzbekistan under new Partnership Strategy

[World Bank is acting as an arm of the US government in Uzbekistan.  The more money and military goodies that Washington and its proxies pour into Central Asia, the less chance that Russia can forge a significant Eurasian Union, or strategic arrangement.]

World Bank to allocate $1.3 billion to Uzbekistan under new Partnership Strategy

December 6, Washington DC, The World Bank Group’s Board of Directors today approved a new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for Uzbekistan, providing the framework for World Bank Group assistance to Uzbekistan between 2012 and 2015.

The new Strategy proposes a program linked to Uzbekistan’s development vision of reaching high middle-income status by mid-century. It was developed based on a broad dialogue with the Government of Uzbekistan and consultations with all development partners, including civil society organizations, academia, business communities, professional associations, and multilateral and bilateral donors.

Through implementation of the CPS, the World Bank intends to help enhance the key elements of the Government’s medium-term growth and development strategy: promoting efficiency, enhancing competitiveness, accelerating diversification, and ensuring social inclusion.

A new financing envelope of $1.3 billion – consisting of concessional International Development Association (IDA) credits and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loans – reflects the country’s development needs, its income level, economic prospects, economic management, and performance of Bank-sponsored programs. It will support projects in the areas of water supply and sanitation, irrigation, energy, transport, and private sectors over the next four years. The Bank will also extend the on-going support for basic services in health and education.

Proposed analytical and advisory services aim to help Uzbekistan prepare a comprehensive sector-wide understanding of future development directions. Horticulture and energy sector strategy development is an example of such engagement. In addition, the CPS envisages a high-level joint strategy development exercise – “Uzbekistan Vision 2030”. This aims to help Uzbekistan define roadmaps to achieve its development goals in collaboration with Uzbek research institutes.

“The new CPS builds upon the positive experience of the previous Country Assistance Strategy for 2008-2011,” says Takuya Kamata, World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan. “Uzbekistan has a wide range of opportunities. It has a well educated, young population, which is a great asset. Uzbekistan has great potential in horticulture as well. Key elements of required economic reforms are, for example, to improve energy intensity and the investment climate.”

Uzbekistan joined the World Bank in 1992. The World Bank currently has 10 active projects whose outstanding total commitment is about $630 million.

 

Has Pakistan/US Friendship Gone Up In Smoke?

[It is a real shame that Washington is ready to write-off its long-standing friendship with one of the most loyal allies we have ever had.  If Pakistan had not been there to support us in the past we would never have been able to carry-out our secret plans and get ourselves into so much trouble.  As it is, we have so many years of our own bad behavior to roll back or make some kind of reparations for, before we ever really change our ways, that this part of the world can expect nothing but more of this kind of trouble for many years to come. 

It is a real shame that the Pentagon decision-makers felt that the only way that they could communicate with the Pak generals was through this deadly dialogue of weapons.]

(NOT SHAMSI IMAGES)

US set equipment on fire before leaving Shamsi air base

PTI

ISLAMABAD: Making sure nothing sensitive is left behind, American forces set on fire all their redundant and useless equipment before abandoning the Shamsi air base in the country’s southwest.

Shamsi air base, which is now under the control of the Pakistani army, was used by US for reportedly launching drone attacks on militant hideouts.

US was forced to vacate the base as it was given a 15-day deadline by the Pakistani government following last month’s cross-border NATO attack that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers.

The US troops set all their redundant and useless equipment on fire before abandoning the place, according to media reports today.

The burning of equipments was a ‘routine practice’. A Pakistani military official in Balochistan while talking about the burning of some equipment by the US had earlier claimed this was a routine practice as the gear was no longer required.

The last flight carrying US personnel and equipment had departed from Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province yesterday and the facility had been “completely vacated” by the Americans, the Inter-Services Public Relations had said.

Pakistani Gunmen Torch NATO Cargo Again

Smoke rises past residents standing on the wall of a truck terminal where NATO fuel tankers were set ablaze in Quetta on December 9.

Smashing Greater Central Asia—Part III, Phantom Threats

Smashing Greater Central Asia—Part III   

Phantom Threats

Peter Chamberlin

Representatives from all of the secret agencies of the Stans, except for Turkmenistan, have come together in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to identify a common threat in Central Asia, emanating from a non-existent terrorist underground (SEE: Secret services say about the presence in Central Asia, domestic extremist underground).  This consensus on a common invisible enemy sets the stage for the coming creation of a Central Asian rapid reaction force (which is to be used primarily for crushing political dissent), without defining the author of that budding force.  Will it be Western-oriented or Russian in composition, or will there be two competing forces?

The sudden appearance of “Islamist terrorists” inKazakhstanseems like a sure sign of outside intervention, but is it really?  It is doubtful that many of the terrorist attacks which have happened in the past and have been blamed on shadowy, previously unheard of terrorist outfits, have really been the work of religious extremists.  The exceptionally high military skills which have been exhibited in most of these rare guerilla attacks (Fedayeen) is proof that most of the terrorist attacks have been the work of military professionals.  There is presently no way to know for certain whether the terrorism in Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia has been by real militants, or has been the work of intelligence agencies or military contractors, (mercenaries), or possibly commando actions by Special Forces soldiers.

Whoever bombed the railroad bridge in Uzbekistanrecently, destroying the concrete bridge supports, were clearly professionals, just like those demolition teams who disabled Russian hydroelectric dams last year.  It would be accurate to think ofCentral Asia as a secret battlefield, where attacks and counterattacks have been taking place beyond the eyes and ears of civilization for several years.  It is only now, since our attention has been diverted to the former Soviet empire that observers have started to take notice of the secret shenanigans.

When it comes to news reports out of the CIS countries, or any of the closed societies of Asia orAfrica(where the legitimate media does not go), we can never be sure if any of them are true.  Who can be sure that reported terrorist attacks even happen at all?

If a believable world-wide terrorist organization can be created practically out of thin air, then how many real terrorists does it really take to create a popular perception of a growing terrorist menace?  With its “al-Qaeda” project, the CIA has perfected its mastery of a process for creating pseudo-terrorists and weaving terrorist legends around them.  Since the official start of the terror war, we have demonstrated our mastery of this black art to the world.  Even though our leaders and the national media like to claim that we are locked in a deadly terrorist war with this Islamist organization, secret services in the know understand that “al-Qaeda” is merely a phantom outfit, existing only on paper, to be called forth whenever US inroads are needed anywhere in the world.

Every functioning spy agency knows by now that a few terrorist legends have been blended together to create the impression of a widespread terrorist internationale, to serveAmerica’s secret plans. The only real connection between “al-CIA-da”-linked terrorist groups anywhere is the common denominator of the CIA hand, or the CIA-created al Qaeda brand-name.  The CIA has turned mass-murder into an art form, creating a prototype of roving gangs of militants, mercenaries, or hired criminal thugs, who provide cover stories for any missions to terrorize the local populations or to attack designated targets.  Anyone who has been paying attention would have learned of our skills and adapted them towards their own ends by now, simply by plugging into the lively “al-Qaeda” mythology for themselves.

Which government is behind the alleged “Islamists” of Central Asia–American, or copycat competitors?  Did Kazakh President Nazarbayev manufacture his own “Islamists,” in order to justify a wave of political repression, just as Bakiyev allegedly raised the specter of Mullah Abdullo and the IMU to provide cover for ethnic rioting  that was unleashed in theOsh region in southernKyrgyzstan?  Did Uzbek President Islam Karimov claim that unseen “terrorists” blew that railroad bridge to cover his feud withTajikistan?  Or, were all of these faceless terrorists (some of them operating under the name of unheard of militant outfits) real, working for meddling outside powers?  That is the nature of a covert war environment—nobody knows what to believe, so everybody is suspect.  Such an environment is created with the intention of fostering suspicious paranoia among real resistance forces.  It is part of the divide and conquer strategy.

This is what is happening all overCentral Asia.  InUzbekistan, phantom “terrorists” have allegedly blown-up a railroad bridge, not on the main rail line being used to supply NATO, but on a side route which only servicesTajikistan. This rail blockage comes after months of sporadic service, because of an ongoing railroad war of attrition with Uzbek President Karimov, over the Rogun Dam issue.  InTajikistanitself recently, the government has revived the memory of Mullah Abdullo and bands of phantom Islamists, to cover up government repression of religious dissidents.  If a group ever existed anywhere, it remains forever useful to deceitful individuals who want to invoke the image of killer Islamists to cover their own tracks.

The term “militant Islamist” describes a particular, rare type of individual, one who follows a deviant version of Islam, and is highly trained in the military arts.  The people who are usually blamed for isolated terrorist attacks have been religious students, who have somehow become radicalized and motivated to take-up arms, allegedly in defense of their faith.  It takes outside intervention to train and arm these new militants, after they have gone through religious indoctrination.  Somebody has to provide the military hardware they rely on.  Every terrorist group has such backers or sponsors.  Identifying the state terrorist backer is even more difficult than identifying secret terrorists.

The struggle to dominateEurasiahas evolved past the original Cold War scenario, producing a new form of warfare.  World War III has been reduced to a media war, with the East/West coalitions striving in the shadows to influence popular perceptions and thereby alter reality.  War reporting is a thing of the past, having been replaced by national “news,” which is usually delivered weeks, after the events have passed.

In a psywar, it is often impossible to tell which side is benefitting from the violence, or which side is responsible for it.  It is sometimes even harder to know whether the event is intentional, or simply coincidence.  It is sometimes possible after the event has passed to understand which side has gained advantages from the violent terrorist incident, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.  This is why hard analysis of the many ongoing international confrontations has us all looking backwards, in order to anticipate what the future may hold (perhaps this explains the prevailing paranoia in the conspiracy research community).  InCentral Asiawe see traces left behind from many, widely dispersed terrorist events, forming an evidence trail that unlocks secret events from the past, giving us insight into the forces that will be destabilizing the CIS countries in the future.

All the players in the Central Asian psywar have adapted their games to the new realities.  Everyone is now singing the same tune, expressing the same fear of future “Islamists” and narco-terrorists who might be migrating outward fromAfghanistanafter 2014.  Both East and West claim to offer protection and order in the face of this common terrorist threat.  There is an unspoken consensus on the true nature of these Islamist terrorists and an understanding that the real terrorist threat comes from those who protect the narco-terrorists and their deadly products.  The real terrorists are those government forces which have banded together in secret to manufacture “radical Islam” and to push it onto unsuspecting Muslim populations.

The beliefs promoted by every radical Islamist outfit are the same—someone has insulted God and must die—it then falls to the true believer to become a self-appointed executioner for God.  It is the Islamists of tomorrow, who represent the real danger which Central Asian governments prepare for today.  Militant groups, led by such individuals are the only real military threat that could possibly endanger Central Asian governments in the near future.

Both East and West are now selling military solutions to meet future CIS needs.  TheUSis relying on its “Partnership for Peace” relationships to gain an inside track to sell its proposed secret military solution.  So far, this approach has paid-off with Western inroads made in border control, drug control and counter-terrorism programs in all of the Stans.  It remains to be seen whether US diplomats can turn this into actual partnerships with separate governments.  That decision will depend upon the American aid program offered and the level of confidence in American security.

Russiais has been taking a different approach to the anticipated security problems of the region, according to the Russian press.  They are developing a strategy and war-gaming on it, to deal with an unspecific type of threat which is somewhere between militant Islamists and any “Arab spring” type of movement which might arise in the immediate future.  The most obvious problem that is developing with both Eastern and Western strategies, is that all of the solutions are being developed piecemeal, out of separate components, based on separate treaties and security organizations that often don’t match-up.  It is making it difficult to synchronize commitments already made by the separate states with developing plans to enhance security.  Some governments belong to both East and West security organizations, meaning that they might belong to the same drug control regime, but be on different sides of the counter-terrorism issue.

Russian security solutions are being practiced with individual governments in the region, to develop a common concept of fighting future Islamist terror and popular uprisings.  Kazakhstanparticipated in September’s Center-2011 Caspian exercises.  Tajikistan has been named in next year’s Peace Mission-2012 exercise, which has been reportedly focused on the same missions inTajikistan’s mountainous terrain.

Sept. 9-26, the Russian army, joined byKazakhstan,TajikistanandKyrgyzstan, deployed 12,000 troops in a huge combined military exercise code-named Center-2011 which reportedly simulated an Iranian attack on Caspian oil fields.  Two videos from those war games below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

учения ЦЕНТР-2011.mp4, posted with vodpod

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Сюжет “Центр 2011”, posted with vodpod

The Center-2011 Caspian war games were very significant because of the specific missions which were reported by the Russian press to have been practiced there.  One practice mission was securing an undefinedCaspian Sea oil terminal from a military assault by approximately 70 aircraft from an unnamed air force, coming from the south. The games reportedly involved defendingKazakhstan’s Caspian Mangustanskoy field being developed by ExxonMobil in the northern Caspian.  The map released to the press, which had been used in the exercise, looked remarkably like the Turkmen Cheleken Contract Area just south of there,Turkmenistan’s Caspian cash cow.   See the similarities between the two graphics below:

In addition to the similarity of the two sites, the size of the Turkmen Air Force and the 70 operational fighter aircraft reported in the Center-2011 story are nearly the same.  CouldRussiaandKazakhstanhave actually been practicing taking control of the Cheleken facility, but reported to the Russian press the Kazakh scenario?

The following report appeared in Eurasia.org on Nov. 22, Would Russia Go To War Over The Trans-Caspian Pipeline?   Did this reporter’s speculation strike a nerve inTurkmenistan?  Putin’sRussia has been very assertive since the Georgian war demonstratedRussia’s resolve to hold on to its special possessions in this vital region.  The conflict that has been brewing withTurkmenistan may dwarf the Georgian actions.  Disagreements with the Turkmen government have precipitated a media war, with Berdymukhamedov’s stubborn rejection of anything associated withRussia looking like a mutiny, a rebellion against Putin’s dreamed of Eurasian alliance.

The final straw forRussiamay have been Berdymukhamedov’s open promises to sign-on to the European trans-Caspian pipeline projects, which would have cost Gazprom andRussiaenormous losses of gas profits.  This was unacceptable.  The Turkmen President had to be made to understand exactly what he stood to lose by threateningRussia’s economic lifeline.

The day after the Caspian war story ran, Turkmen President Berdymukhamedov was in China, where he signed 14 agreements, among them, an agreement to double Turkmenestan’s pipeline exports to China (SEE: Turkmen in Gas Accord With China ).

He also signed 13 more bilateral agreements with Hu Jintao on securing loans for oil and gas equipment, collaborating on internal affairs, police training, anti-terrorism etc.  The full range of the agreements is not yet known, but police and anti-terrorist training forTurkmenistan had already been contracted from theUS and NATO.  It is unknown what effect the Chinese agreement will have upon such commitments already made to either NATO orRussia.

This new Chinadeal effectively sealed the fate of both European dream projects, Nabucco and the trans-Caspian project, in addition to negating a resumption of high Russian export levels.  Turkmenistancould no longer promise such high production levels, no matter what they had previously claimed.  In reality, Turkmenistanhas not yet managed to produce meet the halfway point in the projected 32 billion cubic meters a year required to fill that first pipeline.  It may take an extended development period to consistently produce enough Turkmen gas for a second Chinese pipeline.  There will be no available Turkmen gas to send to Europe, despite the rosy predictions made by the government and their British advisers (SEE: Turkmenistan: Ashgabat Energy-Reserve Controversy Continues to Flare ).

President Berdymukhamedov recently stated that the U.S. “has been and remains one of the strategic vectors of its foreign policy (SEE:  Turkmenistan Hosts Meeting To Develop Action Plan For Implementing UN Global Counter-Terrorism StrategyUS and Turkmenistan to continue combating illegal narcotics).  It is not often mentioned in the Western media, but the US has also been using the airport in Ashgabat for refueling aircraft, as well as the airport town of Mary and at least one other airport in the country, even though the northern distribution network land routes bypassTurkmenistan.

From all available evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that there will be no Turkmen participation in anything Russiahas planned.  The same cannot be said of Tajikistan, where the201st motorized division of the Russian Army maintains its only base in the region, overriding any smaller issues like the recent Russian pilot arrest.  The Tajik media has reported thatTajikistan has signed-on to next year’s SCO war games with the 201st, to develop a rapid reaction force.

This new military exercise inCentral Asiashows that Russian forces are honing their new Rapid Reaction Force, to be operational by the time of the American Afghan withdrawal in 2014.  The coming Peace Mission-2012 represents the natural progression of the training acquired in the Center-2011 (“Центр-2011”) Caspian war game exercise, which was conducted in September.   We can expect to see more of these war games in the future, as Russian forces develop the concept of a quick reaction battalion, to intercept narco-terrorists, or to free villages overrun by unnamed forces.

Turkmenistanhas already invited NATO/US forces to help it in counter-terrorist, counter-narcotics, border control and policing efforts, even though the Turkmen leadership boasts loud and often about its “neutrality.”

Even though Uzbekistan is helping the US conduct its NDN (northern distribution network) enterprise in exchange for military aid and help with image modification, the Karimov government refuses to participate in any regional solution that has been put forth by either the US or Russia, even scuttling the US Istanbul agreement on Afghanistan.

Karimov will not support any security scenario that omits the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RAT), which is based in Tashkent.  A parallel law enforcement structure is being created there, to expedite terrorism suspects in the US model of operation.  Moscow’s coalition building has so far been unable to overcome Karimov’s distrust of Putin, in order to bring him onboard, even though the SCO structure has been officially linked to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) andUzbekistan is a member.

Karimov refuses to join in any collective security force andBelarusis leading a push to haveUzbekistanexpelled from the CSTO, unless it joins the security arrangement.  This prevailing anti-Russian sentiment more or less ensures that no conceivable security arrangement will include all the national governments, creating a dangerous scenario where the CIS governments choose-up sides and take-up arms in opposition to each other.  It may work out that the separate organizations can come together over the real threats and remain divided over the manufactured points of contention.

The new message emerging from the Russian press reports and manipulations of that news is that Putin is trying to pull together all of the remnants of theSoviet Unionthat he can influence, in his Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).  Laying the economic groundwork for the massive organization effort, the Customs Union is the first stage of that planned reunion.  War games to secure the resources of the member states suggest thatRussiaand its allies are prepared to use military force to hold onto assets.  Widespread attacks by “Islamists” who suddenly emerge out of nowhere, or out of retirement, forcing recalcitrant governments to seek military assistance, suggest that the Kremlin may be giving them a nudge.

Against the temptation to side with Russiaover concerns about Islamists and revolutions, the Americans have also deployed their own, perhaps more attractive, economic/military package of incentives.  In addition to the incessantly advertised Silk Road incentive package we have the promise of such things as the free military surplus weapons, Special Forces training centers and modern border control technology (SEE:  Smashing Greater Central Asia –Part One).

Border control enhancement in the Central Asian states is one area of Western penetration into the national security structure of all of the Stan governments.  The EU and the UN build and remodel border control facilities for the individual governments to run, while the US and NATO provide the expertise and technical means to control borders in the face of determined smugglers and terrorists, who are hell-bent on conducting their deadly trade across normally porous borders.

In the war to “Smash Greater Central Asia,” the great game is being played-out as a massive psywar, with both sides using the same covert tactics to produce opposite results.  The secret war is on, for the hearts and souls of individual nations and individual tribes, who are looking for economic roads out of the remnants of the massive Gulag state and the crumbling industrial base that has been left in its wake.  An interesting, though often overlooked, fact about the former Soviet empire is the wreckage that has been left behind in the crumbling infrastructure of roads, factories, pipelines, water and electrical transmission systems.  All of these former life-giving arteries of the Soviet industrial state have been milked of their usefulness to the economically starved CIS countries, having surpassed their expiration dates and started to crumble.  Repairing these systems may be more difficult and more costly than simply replacing them with brand new systems.

All of the former communist satellite countries are looking to the community of nations for help in overcoming these obstacles to economic growth, no matter whether that help is offered by the Western democracies or by a Gazprom-energized Russian economic union.  The objective of the psywar against these CIS countries is to gain the loyalties of the individual governments in a bidding war for the least costly solutions available to the Center.  The importance of co-opting each government means that those nations which cannot be tricked into giving their loyalty will be bought, if possible, if not, then the military option remains open.

The issue of “human rights” is overlooked by Western diplomats when they are trying to legitimize their interaction with the dictatorships of Central Asia, such as Islam Karimov,   but it becomes a weapon when it comes to other, less vital governments.  Human rights becomes a useful issue for bashing unfriendly dictatorships.  It has been used too often in this hypocritical manner to be very effective any more.  The two-faced method for deploying the human rights issue serves to delegitimize the idea of democratic rights for all, which must form the foundation of any democracy movement.  In September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended Karimov for “progress” on human rights and traveled to Tashkent in October to thank the dictator in person for his cooperation.  In Turkmenistan, Berdimuhamedov no longer feels obligated to listen to the comments of the West on human rights.

We have worn-out our welcome inCentral Asia, before we really got our foot in the door.  It is a bad idea to squander all of your good will, especially at the same time that you are wearing out your economic appeal.  Interfering in the internal Russian electoral process is also not a good example to set if you plan to encourage dictatorships to be more lenient on human rights.  If you cannot get your foot in the door and you cannot even gain observer status, your plans may be left out in the cold as well.  The ultimate solution forCentral Asiamay be whatever defense Russian leaders can organize to stop US State Dept. and CIA subversion.  The governments siding withRussiamay have already figured that out.

peter.chamberlin@hotmail.com

Smashing Greater Central Asia –Part One

Smashing Greater Central Asia – Part Two