A lot of nonsense being written in the news about Conservative writer George Will deciding to throw in the towel in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a mess. Big deal. It’s been a mess for a couple thousand years, and trying to “win” a war there and put in a crumpets and tea democracy is a bit delusional.

But allowing a radical Alqaeda linked Taliban take over is quite another thing altogether.

There is a geopolitical “Great game” in Afghanistan that goes back to the days of Alexander the Great.

The modern day version of this is fueled by the desire to tap into the natural gas fields of the Caspian sea region, including the central Asian pipelines.

Via Rupee news:

Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are landlocked nations. They do not have complete control over the utilization of their natural resources, as they are forced to ship their oil and gas via pipelines that run through other countries in order to reach the global market. Whoever controls the pipelines controls the energy they contain, which is vital to a country’s economy and even military strength, as modern militaries, with aircraft, armored vehicles, and gas-powered ships are reliant on oil. The struggle for control of these pipelines is now being waged, quietly but surely, between many countries including Russia, China, Iran, and the United States.[4]

In other words, everybody wants to get into the act, not just because hosting a pipeline lets them have the natural gas and the fees associated with the pipeline access, but it allows them to bully their nighbors.

Look at the map.

Two years ago, Iran couldn’t meet their bills, so their natural gas supply was cut off to many in the north of that country.

Similarly, Russia has cut off natural gas supplies to intimidate the Ukraine and even the European Union.

Some claim the US involvement in this area is mainly about building a pipeline; the ultimate winner would be an India, safe from Islamicist terror state next door, and well supplied by that pipeline.

A withdrawal of US troops would not only mean the destruction of NATO, but a power vacuum in the area, that bodes ill for India, but could be a mixed blessing for China.

A Taliban takeover would be better than chaos, but since the Taliban is Pashtun based, and many Pastuns live in Pakistan, this means that radical Islam could end up destablizing Pakistan and some of the smaller central Asian nations in the area. But even supposing a “peaceful” Taliban can do a takeover, who would run the pipeline? And therein lies the problem.

The Taliban might welcome the huge “Transit fees” they would get for allowing the pipeline, but they would have to import skilled foreigners to run and protect the pipeline.

China is desperate for energy, and is willing to look the other way when doing trade deals. For example, they are willing to work with Iran, including helping build a pipeline for their oil, but would a paranoid Sunni Islamist regime in Afghanistan (and if this happened, in Pakistan also) be the answer? China’s recent riots (that they blame on Turkish Islamic groups) have to be entered into the calculations.

China is well placed to intervene and secure strategic assets. The north-western region of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) is increasingly being seen as an economic hub, partly to quell the lingering separatist rebellion there.

As well as using its financial muscle to secure stakes in the region’s energy sector – including the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline, exploration of energy assets in Uzbekistan and a pipeline from Turkmenistan – Chinese economic influence also operates from a bottom-up approach, as Chinese entrepreneurs and businessmen set up in Central Asia and Chinese goods flood into the region’s markets. (italics mine).

So where do the Chinese hookers come into all of this?

Well, not only does China export a lot of cheap goods to Asian markets, but they export a lot of hookers  masseurs who work in health clinics there.

Back in 2007, students from the radical school at the “Red Mosque” kidnapped a few of the girls, and China pressured Pakistan to “protect Chinese nationals” working there. The result was a government attack on the mosque, with over a hundred students killed.

No, the Pakistan government wasn’t merely trying to protect sex health workers; Pakistn actually have a long military relationship with China, and were told protect the girls or else.

How important is that link?

From the Council on Foreign Relations website:

Despite increased cooperation between the United States and Pakistan since 2001, Islamabad places greater value on its relationship with Beijing than vice versa, say analysts. “Pakistan thinks that both China and the United States are crucial for it,” said Haqqani. “If push comes to shove, it would probably choose China…

I’m sure I have a lot of the details wrong here, but the issue reminds me of the episode in Star Trek, where the Enterprise is surrounded, and Spock tells the Captain: “Checkmate”…but Captain Kirk replies: “No, Spock, not chess, but poker” and goes on to bluff himself out of the situation.

Alas, in Afghanistan, it is the Taliban who is playing poker, and is manipulating the news media to pretend it is winning, and one worries that it is America who will throw down the cards and leave the table.

But China is not playing poker, but chess, and it does it’s planning in the long term. Once there is no American influence in the region, they will position their chess pieces to win in the long run.

So the next time you hear “quagmire” when someone discusses Afghanistan, just reply: Ah, but what about China? And then show them the map.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her blog is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

 

 

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