Af-Pak Transparency

In Joint Vision 2020(.doc), published in June, 2000, the US military sets as its “ultimate goal” the achieving of “full spectrum dominance”:

Full spectrum dominance implies that US forces are able to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with combinations of forces tailored to specific situations and with access to and freedom to operate in all domains – space, sea, land, air, and information.  Additionally, given the global nature of our interests and obligations, the United States must maintain its overseas presence forces and the ability to rapidly project power worldwide in order to achieve full spectrum dominance.  

Pepe Escobar repeatedly uses the term “full spectrum dominance,” for the pursuit of which “global war on terror” or “fighting Islamic extremism” serves as a useful “cover story.”  As far as “AfPak” goes, “it’s full spectrum dominance against the Asian energy security grid” [Breaking up is (not) hard to do, Asia Times, Nov. 7, 2009]:  

What’s really at stake for Washington is how to orchestrate a progressive encirclement of Russia, China and Iran. And the name of the game is not really AfPak – even with all the breaking up and balkanization it may entail. It’s all about the New Great Game for the control of Eurasia.  

F. William Engdahl, author of “Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order,” has been interviewed several times by The Real News Network.  Asked about the meaning of the book title, he states (Full Spectrum Dominace, TRNN, July 6, 2009):   

[F]or the Pentagon, for the Washington military-industry complex, the Cold War never ended. The objective is to, as Brzezinski said in his 1997 book The Grand Chess Game, the objective of United States power projection is to prevent the cohesion of economic powers throughout Eurasia, that is, Russia, China, the Central Asian countries, the Middle East oil-producing countries, that would have enough raw material resources, enough population, enough scientific know-how to be independent of the domination of the United States. And that would essentially mean the end of the American hegemony of the post-1945 era.    

In a second interview, Why is the USA in Afghanistan?, (TRNN, December 9, 2009), Engdahl bemoans the lack of transparency: 

[T]his is aimed at controlling the Eurasian subcontinent to prevent any emergence of a rival economic challenge to United States hegemony, full stop. Let’s be transparent about that in Washington. Let’s have an open and honest debate so that the population, when they’re being asked to go over there and die for this cause, know what they’re dying for and can weigh in on the thing. That’s my point. 

Interviewer Paul Jay asks “When Obama sits around the table with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what are they really talking about?” Engdahl responds, “Pull out a map…,” but doesn’t explicitly answer the question. 

If we don’t know what transpires when the JCoS brief Obama, thanks to the release of the Eikenberry memos we are privy to a secret assessment provided by a former Afghanistan military commander turned ambassador for his superiors at the State Department.  In the November 6th memo, Eikenberry writes (U.S. Envoy’s Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans, NYT, Jan. 26, 2010):   

President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner. The proposed counterinsurgency strategy assumes an Afghan political leadership that is both able to take responsibility and to exert sovereignty in the furtherance of our goal — a secure, peaceful, minimally self-sufficient Afghanistan hardened against transnational terrorist groups.  

Yet Karzai continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defense, governance or development. He and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further. They assume we covet their territory for a never-ending ‘war on terror’ and for military bases to use against surrounding powers.  

“Of course, the same passivity which makes Karzai anathema as far as achieving a secure, peaceful, minimally self-sufficient Afghanistan goes may really endear him to ‘full spectrum dominance’ types at the Pentagon,” Eikenberry could have added.  “I happen to agree with F. William Engdahl, the whole idea of ‘full spectrum dominance’ is ‘megalomaniacal,’” he could have concluded, or he could have proceeded with an sober analysis of how the troop surge would impact the furtherance of the military’s “ultimate goal.”  He could have but didn’t, maybe the conflicting appraisals of Karzai’s usefulness are part of what he has in mind when he calls for “further study.”   

In the Engdahl interview, Jay states “You don’t hear objections coming from Russia or China about any of this.”  Well, there certainly has been a Chinese reaction, as Tarique Niazi indicates in the opening lines of Gwadar: China’s Naval Outpost in the Indian Ocean (Jamestown Foundation, China Brief, Feb. 16, 2005): 

Four months after the U.S. ordered its troops into Afghanistan to remove the Taliban regime, China and Pakistan joined hands to break ground in building a Deep Sea Port on the Arabian Sea. The project was sited in an obscure fishing village of Gwadar in Pakistan’s western province of Baluchistan, bordering Afghanistan to the northwest and Iran to the southwest. Gwadar is nautically bounded by the Persian Gulf in the west and the Gulf of Oman in the southwest.

Although the Gwadar Port project has been under study since May 2001, the U.S. entrance into Kabul provided an added impetus for its speedy execution. Having set up its bases in Central, South, and West Asian countries, the U.S. virtually brought its military forces at the doorstep of China. Beijing was already wary of the strong U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, which supplies 60% of its energy needs. It was now alarmed to see the U.S. extend its reach into Asian nations that ring western China. Having no blue water navy to speak of, China feels defenseless in the Persian Gulf against any hostile action to choke off its energy supplies. This vulnerability set Beijing scrambling for alternative safe supply routes for its energy shipments. The planned Gwadar Deep Sea Port was one such alternative… 

Sudha Ramachandran adds that “China’s foothold in the Arabian Sea has set off alarm bells in India, Iran and the US” (China’s Pearl in Pakistan’s waters, Asia Times, March 4, 2005):  

A presence in Gwadar provides China with a “listening post” where it can “monitor US naval activity in the Persian Gulf, Indian activity in the Arabian Sea and future US-Indian maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean”, writes [Zia] Haider. A recent report titled “Energy Futures in Asia” produced by defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for the Pentagon notes that China has already set up electronic eavesdropping posts at Gwadar, which are monitoring maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea.  

Drawing attention to China’s “string of pearls” strategy, the report points out that “China is building strategic relationships along the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea in ways that suggest defensive and offensive positioning to protect China’s energy interests, but also to serve broad security objectives”. The port and naval base in Gwadar is part of the “string of pearls”… 

The Pentagon report sees China’s efforts to defend its interests along oil shipping sea lanes as “creating a climate of uncertainty” and threatening “the safety of all ships on the high seas”. This perception overlooks the fact that China’s “string of pearls” strategy has been triggered by its sense of insecurity…  

Niazi and Ramachandran write at the time of Gwadar Port’s inauguration in early 2005.  In arguing against the troop surge, Robert Pape notes that “General McChrystal’s own report explains that American and NATO forces themselves are a major cause of the deteriorating situation” (To Beat the Taliban, Fight From Afar, New York Times, Oct. 15, 2009): 

…Up until 2004, there was little terrorism in Afghanistan and little sense that things were deteriorating. 

Then, in 2005, the United States and NATO began to systematically extend their military presence across Afghanistan… 

As Western occupation grew, the use of the two most worrisome forms of terrorism in Afghanistan — suicide attacks and homemade bombs — escalated in parallel.     

That is, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan began to become destabilizing as China was taking “a giant leap forward in gaining a strategic foothold in the Persian Gulf region” (Ramachandran). 

In May, 2008, satellite images confirmed the existence of China’s “new underground nuclear submarine base” in Hainan Island in the South China Sea right off the mainland coast (China’s new naval base triggers US concerns, Agence France-Presse, May 12, 2008).  Admiral Timothy Keating, “the top commander of US forces in Asia,” couldn’t have evinced the “full spectrum dominance” mentality any better.  “China should not pursue such ‘high-end military options,’ [he] warned…He underlined America’s ‘firm intention’ not to abandon its dominating military role in the Pacific…” 

“James Lyons, an ex-commander of the US Pacific Fleet…said that ‘operational tactics’ used against the former Soviet Union during the Cold War should be applied against China.”  While he specifically mentioned “leasing a squadron of F-16 fighter jets and navy vessels to the Philippines…as part of the deterrence strategy,” anti-Soviet “operational tactics” certainly would include the unleashing of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in 1979 (Chalmers Johnson, Abolish the CIA,, Nov. 5, 2004).   

Maybe it’s not just Pakistan’s secret service, the ISI, that is reluctant to let go of its Taliban assets.  Maybe “persistent accounts of Western forces in Afghanistan using their helicopters to ferry Taliban fighters” shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand (Ahmad Kawoosh, Helicopter rumors refuse to die, Asia Times, Oct. 29, 2009). 

In December 2009, once again “the alarm bells are ringing in Washington,” this time as Chinese President Hu Jintao “arrived on a Central Asian tour for the formal commissioning of the 1,833-kilometer pipeline connecting gas fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (and possibly Russia) to China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region,” writes M K Bhadrakumar (China resets terms of engagement in Central Asia, Asia Times, Dec. 24, 2009). “For the first time in the post-Soviet period, a truly regional project has taken shape in Central Asia.”  Bhadrakumar predicts that “the coming year will see the US intensify efforts to counter China’s influence”: 

At the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee special hearing on Central Asia on December 15, George Krol, the deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said: “This administration does not consider Central Asia a forgotten backwater, peripheral to US interests. The region is at the fulcrum of key US security, economic, and political interests. It demands attention and respect and our most diligent efforts and the Obama administration [is committed] to this very approach.” [Emphasis added.]

Never before has an American official stated US intentions towards post-Soviet Central Asia in such strong words. Indeed, there is an implied warning to Beijing that the US is watching its forays into the region closely and will not let them pass without challenge. 

Bhadrakumar quotes terrorism experts to the effect that China must be crazy, it would be impossible to protect pipelines “as they pass through vast stretches of sparsely populated areas in Central Asia and Xinjiang,” particularly in Xinjiang, given the recent unrest there.  

Beijing, aware of the damage that can be done by “’foreign devils on the Silk Road,’” is “extremely wary” of the U.S.’s “hidden intentions.” Indeed, “the spectre of an open-ended U.S. military presence in the region haunts China,” Bhadrakumar closes: 

…After all, China was the US’s accomplice against the Soviet Union in the Afghan jihad in the 1980s and should know that Washington has myriad ways to make use of radical and extremist elements as instruments of geopolitics. China can see right in front of its eyes the horrible example of its “all-weather friend” Pakistan, which by associating with US strategy in Afghanistan has been dragged into the vortex of instability and become the target of religious extremists and militants.  

Bhadrakumar notes that while the details are murky, there is “reason to believe that the Afghan war has already spilt over…[T]here has been a spurt in militant activities in Central Asia (and Xinjiang).”  Ramtanu Maitra draws a line from the Pakistan army’s Swat Valley operation to the Xinjiang unrest (Chinese Dilemma in Xinjiang,, July 9, 2009).   

Meanwhile, it appears that Gwadar’s future as a “$12.5 billion mega oil city” is in doubt. In part because of “security concerns,” major refinery projects have been “shelved.” China won’t be benefiting from the envisioned Arabian Sea-Xinjiang energy corridor any time soon, reports Syed Fazl-e-Haider (China calls halt to Gwadar refinery, Asia Times, Aug. 14, 2009), to what extent its Persian Gulf “giant leap forward” has been stymied I don’t know. 

In a recent book review that doesn’t even mention Afghanistan, Benjamin Shobert quotes author Zachary Karabell (Look who’s come to dinner, Asia Times, Feb. 5, 2010): 

The fundamental question for the United States is whether to accept or resist the fusion with China and all that it entails … many Americans remain locked in a mentality that sees the United States as a nation that can remain powerful only by being more powerful than everyone else … Rather than hobbling China, the United States may end up hobbling itself … In trying to prevent China from assuming its place at the table, we instead evict ourselves. 

If what I’ve done here is cherry pick events to make a case that China is the U.S.’s real target in Af-Pak, consider it an alternative to beating the dead horse.  That is, it’s been amply demonstrated that the idea of pouring in troops to defeat al-Qaeda is “absurd”, “wacky”, “like trying to treat cancer with a blowtorch”, “counter-productive”, “idiotic”, “666-1”, “stupid”; Obama’s decision “should be easy”, “makes no sense”.

One thought on “Af-Pak Transparency”

  1. There's also an oil pipeline being built from the coast of Burma to Kunming and ultimately Chongqing (the WW II era capital). Train/highway links to SE Asia as well. The Chinese leaders hope to industrialize the western end of China as well as the east coast.

    As for oil pipelines through Central Asia being "crazy", gambling and improvising at the last minute are typically Chinese.

  2. Over-all an interesting article, although I think the author may credit too much rational long-term thinking to US leaders. Bush, I am convinced, was pursuing the Rapture as well as lusting to steal oil and gas.

  3. If US leaders really are out to "get" the PRC, I imagine they will promote independence movements among the larger ethnic groups (like Tibetans, Uighurs, perhaps Mongols, even the Zhuang and the Yi). This would ultimately hurt the ethnics, but destroying the village to save it is typically American, I'm sorry to say.

  4. If it's dominance you want, go full spectrum.
    You can point at Americans and say: It'll protect them.
    About China, we don't really care.
    And tough cookies to the Russian bear.
    But to the world, America's the pain in the rectum.

  5. If you read the book THE GRAND CHESS GAME (which has been described as a blueprint for global American domination) there is a map of southwest Asia which has an area encircled on it. It is considered the key area America must control to realize its imperialist visions. And that is exactly the areas America is now fighting in….

  6. Any idea waht the US expects of Aus in all this. We have/are building a close tho complicated relationship with China.

  7. "Full Spectrum Dominance" I interpret as "Total World Domination", and many who have sought this have ended such a pursuit with disastrous consequences. Is the US really foolish enough to follow in the footsteps of such people as Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler?

    Seeking World Domination can only lead to more conflict. China Militarily may not be as strong as the US, but it is much stronger than many opponents the US had in the past. Also, many US "allies" are unlikely to follow the US in a war against China(seeking to remain neutral). And many not supporting US plans for World Domination will likely side with China(Burma and North Korea for example are not likely to wait their turn for "regime change"), even regional competitors of China like India or Thailand may temporarily side with China, at least formally if not physically. Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are also unlikely to side with the US against China. Many African countries prefer China's "helping hand" to the USA's "iron fist". As for Iran, if it wants to remain independent of US "dominance" it has to side with China, even if China's government is ideologically different from the Iranian leadership.

    These kind of situations lead to World Wars, and the ones in the early 20th century certainly were not the first of this kind.

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