Elections in Afghanistan

Amidst bombings, intimidation and voterigging the first round of the election has ended. And all under the iron military grip of US Imperialism

It has all gone according to the script. The way the media put it, in these elections which the USA wanted and supported so much, and against which the Taliban have tried to impose an electoral boycott (partially successful in the south), the American-NATO army is the guarantor of democratic consultation against Islamic terrorism. It’s a bit of a paradox that the new Obama administration in the wake of the previous Bush regime which wanted to export democracy by military force now declares that it is defending it with the same means, against the same objective, the terrorism of Al Qaeda and its followers.

40-50% of electors turned out to vote as against the 70% of the previous election in 2004. Karzai has to win, whether in the first round or in a runoff, doesn’t matter, as long as he wins. He has always been America’s man from the time of the old UNOCAL project. And it doesn’t matter who wins between Karzai and his former Foreign Minister, Abdullah, even though the former enjoys the grace and favour of Washington, since it will change neither the internal situation nor the international significance of Afghanistan. Both candidates who accuse each other of vote rigging and intimidation, will have to settle accounts with the American military presence in the country. In reality, there is nothing more paradoxical than the fact that official promises of the candidates don't correspond to the reality of war which has devastated Afghanistan for decades. American imperialism’s renewed interest in this central Asian country, in its election with it support for whichever candidate wins, has nothing to do with the war on terrorism except for the fact that it needs to free itself from an old ally (the Taliban - CWO) that not longer plays a part in its strategic plans but which it once armed, financed and politically invented.

Besides the old UNOCAL project which planned to build an oil pipeline to carry the black gold from Kazakhstan to Pakistan via Afghanistan (it has never been carried out but has also not been definitely shelved) Karzai’s turbulent country continues to be at the centre of US energy strategy. That’s why it wants to have an Afghanistan which is pacified, reliable and politically aligned. Recently (17 July 2009) Turkmenistan and the US signed an agreement to build a gas pipeline from the neighbourhood of Dualatabad through Afghanistan to Gwadar in Pakistan. The project has a number of advantages all of them of equal worth.

The first is the US’ real need to get back into the Central Asian energy game . Turkmenistan is the leading gas producer in the area as well as having small but significant deposits of oil. The other is that it draws away an important partner from the obstacle of Russia’s presence in the area since Moscow and Beijing have reached important oil agreements with Nazarbeyev’s Kazakhstan and have done everything to get the US bases in the region, installed after 9/11, shut down. The third factor is that it brings Pakistan back into line. Recently the administration of the US ex-ally Musharraf had conceded the full right of economic penetration in Baluchistan to China, as well as the contract to modernise the port of Gwadar.

In wider terms the American imperialist effort is also a response to the equally imperialist energy strategy of Russia. The later is expecting to sign an agreement with Turkey allowing the passage of the South Stream oil pipeline through Turkish territorial waters in return for a toll of $630 million and the possibility for Turkey to get the use of the transported oil at rock bottom prices. It is no accident that the first foreign trip of Obama abroad, as soon as he was settled in the White House was to Turkey, to ensure the terminal of the Nabucco gas pipeline in the usual port of Ceyhan which would have to struggle in terms of project development with Russia’s already opened South Stream. It’s also no accident that, on the probable suggestion of Obama, Davotoglu, the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs made a trip with full diplomatic status to Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to create the political conditions for a geographical axis which unites the southern shores of the Caspian to the Turkish Mediterranean passing through Kabul and Islamabad and all under the interested patronage of Washington. In the Nabucco Project there is also a new strategy (yet to be fully outlined, especially in regard to how it will come about) of finding room for Iran, with the objective of detaching Tehran from Russian influence, thus redrawing the borders of imperialist competition in one of the most economically and strategically important regions in the world.

This is why the Afghan elections have taken place against a background of such intense diplomatic activity, a reinforced American military presence and a merciless struggle against any political disruption which in any way would hamper the new imperialist course taken by Obama. Nothing new under the sun here, except for the change of personnel in the administration, and the tactical shift from that of the past but the strategy remains the same, for good or ill.

Fabio Damen