Monday, April 18, 2011

Permanent Bases in Afghanistan?

The NYT has the story.  In essence,
  • the US wants a long-term presence (but swears that that doesn't mean permanent), and some Afghan officials want the US to stay, in part to train their military and police (neither of which, by the way, the Afghans can pay for at currently projected levels).  Of course, Lindsey Graham has been insisting for weeks now that the US needs permanent bases there.
  • The Taliban, with whom the Karzai government has begun talks, insist adamantly that they will accept no agreement that leaves US troops occupying Afghan soil.
  • The Russians are likewise adamantly opposed to an enduring US presence, as is Iran and (evidently) India - all of which have sent envoys to Kabul to ask what the hell is going on.  (And, I expect, China is likely to be beating a path to Karzai's door as well.)
And let's not forget that Afghanistan is deeply enmeshed in the pipeline politics of our era (what Asia Times' Pepe Escobar has coined "Pipelineistan"), or that, by some estimates, Afghanistan has as much as $1 trillion worth of natural resources waiting to enrich those with the technology and connections to harvest them.
Iron and copper are Afghanistan’s best-known resources: US and Afghan officials estimate that the country’s reserves could be worth up to $700 billion. Newer surveys have also found large quantities of niobium, a rare metal used in specialised alloys; and lithium, a key component in many modern electronics.
Welcome to Great Game 3.0!

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