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US Considering Letting Tajikistan Keep Abandoned Afghan Aircraft, Increasing Special Operation Ties

By Kyle Anzalone | The Libertarian Institute | June 20, 2022

US Central Command commander Gen. Michael Kurilla said the US is considering transferring aircraft that once belonged to the Afghan Army to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan. The aircraft was flown to Tajikistan by Afghan soldiers during the fall of the US-backed government in Kabul.

Over the weekend, Kurilla traveled to the Central Asian country for a high-level summit with President Rahmon, Minister of Defense General Colonel Sherali Mirzo. At the meeting, Kurilla said, “I came here to reaffirm our commitment to the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Tajikistan. Strong Tajikistan borders are critical to security of the entire Central Asia region.”

statement relayed through the US embassy reported that Kurilla thanked Tajikistan for maintaining the defunct Afghan Army’s aircraft. “The United States is working with the Tajik government to determine the best way to effectively use and maintain the aircraft.” He continued, “Our hope is to be able to hand over some or all of the aircraft to the Tajik government.”

Kurilla said he could not offer a timeline and that the military equipment could not be returned to Afghanistan “because they do not belong to the Taliban.”

A CENTCOM press release on the meeting said, “security cooperation with Tajikistan security forces focuses primarily on counterterrorism and border security operations. CENTCOM provides Tajikistan training, equipment, and infrastructure to defend its border with Afghanistan.”

Kurilla offered increased training ties between US and Tajik special forces. “Partnered special operations force training represents an area in which we can work together to beat back extremist groups and defend your border,” he said.

Aiding the Tajik military appears out of line with President Joe Biden’s stated foreign policy of diving the world into autocracy versus democracy. The State Department Human Rights report from 2021 says, “Tajikistan is an authoritarian state dominated politically since 1992 by President Emomali Rahmon… Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: forced disappearances on behalf of the government; torture and abuse of detainees by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country, including kidnappings or violence; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists.”

June 20, 2022 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Leave a comment

Iran and SCO sign protocol to start accession process for Tehran

Press TV – March 12, 2022

Iran and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have started a formal process for Tehran’s accession to the major economic bloc.

A Saturday report by Iran’s IRIB News said that a document had been signed a day earlier in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent between representatives of the eight-member SCO and Iran to allow the organization to consider Iran’s accession bid.

Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the signing of the protocol would practically allow the implementation of decision by SCO heads of state in Tajikistan last year to provide membership to Iran.

The next step in the process will be for Iran to sign a memorandum of commitment at an SCO summit in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand in September 2022, said the statement, adding that SCO heads of states will then decide to include Iran in the bloc.

Iran was an observer member of the SCO before applying to join the bloc that includes Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Experts says Iran’s accession to the SCO will be a major boost to the bloc’s influence in the region mainly because Iran’s massive transportation network can facilitate regional and international trade.

Iran is also expected to benefit economically from membership in the bloc. The Iranian customs office (IRICA) said on Saturday that Iranian exports to SCO members had increased by 41% year on year in the 11 months to late February to reach nearly $18.3 billion.

IRICA figures showed that Iran had imported $14.4 billion worth of goods from the SCO countries between March 2021 and February 2022, an increase of 31% against the previous similar period.

March 12, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Imran Khan hits out at West for treating Pakistanis like ‘slaves’

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Moscow, February 24, 2022 © Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik
RT | March 7, 2022

Prime Minister Imran Khan lashed out at foreign diplomats who pressured Pakistan to join a UN resolution condemning Russia over its military attack on Ukraine, accusing the envoys of treating Pakistan like “slaves.”

At a rally on Sunday, Khan shot back at a March 1 letter from diplomats representing 22 missions, including countries in the European Union along with Japan, Switzerland, Canada, the UK, and Australia, which called on Pakistan to drop its neutrality and join them in condemning Moscow.

“What do you think of us? Are we your slaves… that whatever you say, we will do?” questioned Khan, before asking EU ambassadors whether they wrote “such a letter to India,” which also remains neutral.

Khan claimed that Pakistan had suffered for previously supporting NATO’s military action in Afghanistan and declared, “We are friends with Russia, and we are also friends with America; we are friends with China and with Europe; we are not in any camp.”

Pakistan, along with 34 other countries, abstained from voting on the UN’s resolution condemning Russian “aggression against Ukraine” last week. Pakistan’s neighbors India, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan also abstained.

Khan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on February 24, the day Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine, to discuss bilateral ties and regional issues.

Moscow maintains that the attack was launched with the purpose of “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine, and that it was the only possible option left to protect the people of eastern Ukraine following years of a grueling blockade that claimed thousands of lives. Kiev insists the invasion was unprovoked, saying it had no plans to retake the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk republics by force.

March 6, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is The TAPI Pipeline Finally Ready To Go?

Zero Hedge | January 19, 2022

Submitted by James Durso, Managing Director of Corsair LLC, a supply chain consultancy.

The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline has been long aborning, but its prospects recently got a shot in the arm.

The 1100-mile, $10 billion project has seen numerous delays since the pipeline consortium was announced in late 2014, though the project was first mooted in 1991. Construction started in early 2018 with a projected in-service date of 2021, but halted later that year after workers clearing the route were killed by unknown assailants. Also, the project’s $10 billion cost estimate is a decade old, and an update may cause further delay to the Asian Development Bank-funded effort that is now slated to resume work in September 2022. Turkmenistan will loan Afghanistan the funds for its share of the project, to be repaid from gas transit revenues.

Representatives of the government of Tajikistan recently met officials in Afghanistan, and the Taliban announcement that it will dedicate 30,000 troops to pipeline security may motivate the parties to start construction.

The completed pipeline will allow Turkmenistan to reduce its reliance on its biggest gas customer, China, which has recently taken most of Turkmenistan’s gas exports, though in 2021 the country doubled its gas exports to Russia, which used to be the biggest importer of Turkmen gas until it was displaced by China in 2010. The pipeline will generate additional income that Ashgabat can use to improve services to citizens, a priority after the recent unrest in neighboring Kazakhstan.

But there may be competing opportunities. For example, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan recently signed a trilateral gas swap deal for up to 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year. It’s not a large amount – Turkmenistan exports about 40bcm to China every year – but it’s another income stream that should be managed with an eye to future growth. Then there’s the possibility of a connection to the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) to supply Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). Connecting to the SGC would require a 200-mile subsea pipe between Baku and Türkmenba?y, but may face opposition from Iran and Russia on (probably spurious) environmental grounds. Once the politics are resolved, the project would likely be cheaper and carry less of a security burden than the overland TAPI route, and build on the January 2021 agreement between Baku and Ashgabat to jointly develop the Dostluq (“friendship”) oil and natural gas field in the Caspian Sea.

For Afghanistan, the project would provide transit fees of about $500 million per year, along with an annual share of 500 million cubic meters of gas for the first ten years, ultimately increasing to 1.5 bcm per year.

For the Taliban government, a successful project would: demonstrate it can be a reliable partner in a major infrastructure project, employ demobilized Taliban troops so they don’t defect to the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, earn revenue to pay for electricity imports (the country relies on imports for 78% of its power), demonstrate to China it is safe to invest in Afghanistan, and be an opportunity for cooperation with Pakistan despite the dispute over their shared border.

Of course, Kabul will have to figure out what to do with that natural gas, in addition to its one trillion cubic feet of reserves. The U.S.-driven development plan for the country emphasized renewables, like solar and wind, and the U.S.-funded $335 million Tarakhil Power Plant near Kabul, which relied on expensive, imported diesel fuel, is now used as a back-up facility when hydropower and imported power aren’t available. An International Finance Corporation-sponsored 59-megawatt gas-to-power plant in Mazar-i-Sharif would have boosted the country’s current total domestic generation by up to 30 percent, but can it be revived under the Taliban?

And time is of the essence as Uzbekistan recently reduced its power exports by 60%, possibly due to increased domestic demand as winter sets in, possibly to nudge Kabul (or the UN) to start paying the $90 million owed to power suppliers in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran.

For Pakistan, the pipeline would help solve the country’s persistent energy shortfalls, such as the deficit between current gas production of 4 Billion Cubic Feet per Day (BCFD) against demand of 6 BCFD. By 2025, gas production is expected to fall to less 1 BCFD due to depletion of gas reserves while demand increases to 8 BCFD.

And Pakistan won’t have to wait to 2025 for an economic impact: Between 2008 and 2012, 40 percent of Pakistan’s textile sector moved to Bangladesh, one reason being the uneven supply of gas and electricity.

Then there’s Pakistan’s view of its regional interests and its endless search for “strategic depth.” The pipeline would be an independent source of revenue for Afghanistan, just when Pakistan feels the Taliban government should be beholden to it. And India would be able to increase the share of gas in its energy mix from 6.5% to 15%, possibly encouraging more trade between Kabul and New Delhi. To Islamabad, it will add to an already bad outcome: the ungrateful Taliban still aren’t helping Pakistan isolate the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, while India is expected to be the world’s fastest growing economy in 2022, according to the World Bank.

They say “all politics is local” and that may be the case here. One Pakistani observer, Hina Mahar Nadeem, noted the country’s gas shortfalls have a silver lining – for the interests that control the import of expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG). Accordingly, TAPI and the much-delayed (mostly by U.S. sanctions on Iran) Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline are a threat to their economic and political power.

In late 2020, Pakistan and Russia signed a deal to complete the 700-mile Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline, to move LNG from Port Qasim (Karachi) to Kasur, in the Punjab. Pakistan may be treating with Russia to balance against China, or maybe the deal was decided on strictly dollars-and-cents terms. Regardless, this project may crowd out attention and funding for Pakistan’s phase of TAPI.

A richer energy mix and pipeline transit revenues would strengthen Pakistan as it negotiates new efforts with China under the umbrella of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. Pakistan’s leaders will need to strengthen their position vis-à-vis China while demonstrating to Beijing they are a reliable partner that will develop energy resources that can accommodate China’s projects. But first, those leaders must take on entrenched business and national security interests to successfully support TAPI, despite the economic benefits to its neighbors. But this assumes the country’s leaders aren’t captive (willing or otherwise) to their business confederates  and the securicrats.

For India, TAPI would add to the country’s energy mix, propelling its impressive economic growth. India is the world’s third-largest energy consuming country, and has doubled energy use since 2000, with 80% of demand still being met by coal, oil and solid biomass. TAPI gas would allow India to use less coal, helping it meet its COP26 carbon emission goal, and satisfy increased energy demand by 2030 of 25% to 35% according to the International Energy Agency.

India has built a connection for TAPI at Fazilka at the Indo-Pakistan border in the Punjab region, a location on the border with Pakistan that may be subject to cross-border attacks by Pakistan-affiliated groups. Will Pakistan or its proxies be able to resist attacking such a key piece of infrastructure if India-Pakistan relations fail to improve?

For India, the best approach may be “wait and see” if the U.S. threatens sanctions against TAPI partners, whether the Taliban can prove they know how to govern and secure the country against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, and how serious is the announced Russia-Pakistan pipeline deal.

Where does this leave Turkmenistan?

It, too, should take it slow. It is no longer 2014, and it now has opportunities for increased swaps with Iran and Azerbaijan, and further opportunities with Iran may blossom if Tehran and Washington can secure a nuclear deal. The opportunity to connect to Europe via the TCP/SGC may present more revenue with fewer security concerns, or iffy partners like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also, Washington needs to clear the way regarding sanctioned officials in Kabul, though the acting minister of defense, Mullah Muhammad Yaqub, who declared “I am directly responsible for and overseeing the security of the TAPI project” hasn’t been sanctioned by Washington… yet.

Washington might get behind TAPI in the wake of the recent deployment of Collective Security Treaty Organization peacekeeping troops to Kazakhstan, which has increased Russia’s clout in Central Asia. Increased revenue for Ashgabat that can be directed to services for its citizens may prevent the public unrest that gave Moscow an opening to intervene, and Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow may not need much convincing in this regard.

But it may serve Ashgabat well to ask Washington for a blanket sanctions exemption for all project principals and suppliers, and any government officials in the mix, to make it clear who bears responsibility if the project again fails to launch. If this happens, it will be a shabby way to treat ally India, and in Pakistan it will be interpreted as U.S. revenge against the country for supporting the Taliban.

The “push” of increased regional influence for Moscow and the “pull” of clean energy for ally India will hopefully make Washington green-light (or get out of the way of) the long-delayed project.

January 19, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whatever China is doing in Tajikistan, it’s wrong to compare it to American imperialism

By Bradley Blankenship | RT | October 29, 2021

Reports of China building a military base in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan are causing unease in Washington. But it’s wrong to assume Beijing is embarking on the sort of empire-building we expect from the United States.

Earlier this week, reports from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty suggested that Tajikistan had approved the construction of a new Chinese military base on its soil. Separately, the same US government-controlled media outlet claims that the Tajik government offered full control to Beijing of what was said to be an already-in-use Chinese military base, and has pledged to waive future rent in exchange for Chinese military aid.

Neither China nor Tajikistan has officially confirmed this news, and there is good reason to believe the US may be exaggerating these claims in order to raise the alarm on some kind of renegade Chinese militarism.

Earlier this month, a report was leaked to the Financial Times from anonymous US government sources claiming that China had tested an orbital hypersonic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, apparently able to travel around the world. Beijing denied this report, saying it had actually tested a reusable orbital space vehicle.

Chinese media were also quick to respond, with CGTN suggesting the US was trying to create a kind of ‘Sputnik moment’ to ramp up anti-China hysteria, referring to when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite in 1957, causing great concern in Washington and beginning the space race.

And indeed General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, went public with that very suggestion, saying on Bloomberg that this alleged weapon test was “close to” a Sputnik moment. Are US cold war tactics really so predictable?

The answer is yes, and the same can also be applied to this latest development in Tajikistan. Even if the news is true, it does not in any way suggest what the US government is insinuating – that China is becoming an overly ambitious, hostile power.

For one, Tajikistan, believed to have the weakest military in Central Asia, is worried about its security after the American-led retreat from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban. If China was to increase its involvement this would not be surprising, since other powerful countries in the region, such as Russia, have also been called on by the Tajik government to assist on security matters.

The likelihood of a war between Tajikistan and Afghanistan is low, despite Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s hardline stance against the Taliban and rumors that his government is interfering in Kabul’s internal affairs. He has repeatedly said that his government will not recognize Taliban rule in Afghanistan due to concerns over human rights.

While this may just be political posturing from Rahmon, evidenced by his strong invocation of Afghanistan’s Tajik minority, Chinese security involvement in Tajikistan could serve as a moderating influence between the two sides, since Beijing has high-level contact with the interim Afghan government.

China also has legitimate concerns for its own security and that of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in relation to Afghanistan, since it shares a border with the country.

There are at least three terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the Balochistan Liberation ArmyTehreek e-Taliban Pakistan, and Islamic State Khorasan – that are explicitly anti-Chinese and, in the case of the former two, have committed acts of terror against Chinese diplomats.

The latter two of these groups have also expressed support for Uighur extremist groups in China, like the Turkistan Islamic Party, which has drawn serious concern from Beijing as it seeks to cool down ethnic tensions in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

These concerns are valid, and so what we are seeing is not some far-flung overextension of China’s military presence, as is the working definition of ‘security’ for the US. Discounting these unconfirmed reports in Tajikistan, China has only one foreign military base, in Djibouti, compared to upwards of 750 operated by the US – including some 400 in China’s neighborhood alone.

Washington commentators have consistently blasted out a message that China will end up the next empire to die in Afghanistan, suggesting that Beijing would actually make the same ridiculous mistakes that they did over the past 20 years in Afghanistan. This is nonsense. Unlike Washington, Beijing has pursued a multilateral framework with Afghanistan that welcomes input from every regional country, including high-level discussion through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Eurasian regional security pact, and the SCO-Afghanistan contact group.

China will also not bomb Afghanistan to the Stone Age and construct a foreign-dependent warlord economy, instead opting to include Afghanistan in the BRI, meaning Beijing will help plug Kabul into an interconnected future in Eurasia – all without political strings attached. That’s because it’s a win-win situation for China, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the world.

And if this might sound hard to believe? Well, it’s not. You would be hard-pressed to find any example of a Chinese war of aggression in modern history, because such an example doesn’t exist. On the other hand, there are examples of China helping clean up messes created by the US and its allies, including in Europe.

For instance, look at China’s involvement in the Balkans – particularly in Serbia, where at least one US-sponsored think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), now accuses the country of being a puppet for Beijing. But here’s the reality: NATO tore Serbia apart during the Yugoslav wars and used so much depleted uranium in airstrikes against Serbia in 1999 – about 15 tons – that the country has the highest cancer mortality rate in Europe.

On the contrary, the report by the CSIS notes that 40 percent of Serbians think China gives the most aid to the country – in terms of dollars – even though the European Union actually does.

Instead of spending billions on “government and civil society” programs (foreign interference, in other words) like the US and EU, in 2019 in Serbia, Beijing focused 31 percent of its investments toward transportation, 20 percent to information and communications technology, 20 percent to manufacturing, 13 percent to energy, and nine percent to health and human services.

These are, as the CSIS notes, highly visible and consequential sectors – and, I would add, the ones that Serbia obviously needs the most after the devastation brought on by the NATO bombing. Belgrade’s Pupin Bridge, built by the Chinese – one of its two major bridges that cross the Danube – serves as a permanent reminder of how important China’s aid to Serbia has been.

So, when considering an extended Chinese influence in Central Asia, in whatever form that takes, there’s no reason to conflate this in any way with US imperialism and its deleterious effects.

Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, columnist and political commentator. He has a syndicated column at CGTN and is a freelance reporter for international news agencies including Xinhua News Agency.

October 31, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

The Latin Alphabet in Central Asia — America’s Geopolitical Tool

By Vladimir Odintsov – New Eastern Outlook – 04.12.2019

Central Asia has long been one of the key fronts in America’s ideological battle and information war against Russia.

A year ago, the American geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor published its forecast for US policy in Central Asia, which focuses much attention on Russia. Analysts from this agency, which is dubbed the “Shadow CIA”, indicated in this forecast that the United States is looking to strengthen ties with countries along the periphery of the former Soviet Union — from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus and Central Asia — in an effort to put more pressure on Russia. A geopolitical war is going to be waged against Russia, or a multi-domain battle to use the American military terminology, affecting the political, economic, energy and military spheres.

Washington has long identified the Central Asian republics and Afghanistan a “zone of US national interests”, which is why this region is targeted with the full spectrum of American information campaigns. In order for these campaigns to be effective, not only have so-called “independent” media outlets and pro-Western NGOs, been making a massive contribution in Central Asia over the past number of years, which the US has been busily implanting in the region, but military specialists in information warfare have also been recruited — servicemen from the United States Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group. The 8th Psychological Operations Group is responsible for work in Central Asia, which runs the Caravanserai information portal, a website specifically created to counter Russia, sponsored by the United States Central Command and targeted at residents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The main aim shared by most of the information campaigns Washington supports is to separate the regional population from Russia, mentally and psychologically, and to undermine Russia’s position in Central Asia. The campaigns mainly target young people in the hope that the leaders of the future in these countries will have been brought up on Western “democratic” ideals and will therefore be less inclined to partner with Russia.

Special programs are being launched and implemented by NGOs and “independent” media outlets in order to counteract Russia’s influence in the CIS countries. For instance, a new five-year program called MediaCAMP was presented at the end of last year in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, which is run in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan by an American NGO called Internews Network (California, USA), and receives heavy funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The program has a budget of $15 million. Its official goal is “to develop a more balanced information environment”, but in reality, it is used for intensive anti-Russian propaganda. Internews Network had its activity suspended in Russia back in 2007, but it has continued to operate efficiently in most Central Asian countries up to this day. The USAID Agency, funded by the United States federal government, also ran programs in Russia up until 2012 when it was banned.

One clear example of the United States’ involvement in this anti-Russian information war in Central Asia would be the material that was published at the end of January by the Pentagon’s Caravanserai information portal mentioned earlier, pushing Central Asian countries to switch to the Latin alphabet. At the same time, Washington does not try to hide the fact that specialists in information warfare are pushing people to use the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic alphabet, and it is part of their plan because it primarily acts as a tool to drive a cultural wedge between Russia and the Central Asian republics, and would erase the Russian language’s historical presence in Eurasia, constricting and shrinking the Russian-speaking cultural sphere and sphere of information.

It is important to remember that the extensive process of transcribing almost all the languages spoken in the Soviet Union into Cyrillic, which began in 1935, was one of the measures the Soviet government took to unite people in the former USSR. This included transliterating languages with a rich written tradition, interrupted by the reforms of the late 1920s, and languages that had only recently adopted a written form. By 1940, the “Cyrillization of the entire country” was largely complete. Dozens of languages acquired a writing system which united them with the Russian cultural sphere, and it was essentially the first time speakers of these languages received access to a single Eurasian space to share information. After the Second World War ended with Soviet victory in 1945, the Cyrillic alphabet was further consolidated as the main alphabet in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc which was beginning to take shape (for example, the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in Mongolia).

That is why Caravanserai’s sponsors not only see replacing the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet as a kind of symbolic act; it is also meant to drive a mental and psychological wedge between Central Asian countries and Russia. This is the precise aim of the language conflict and Russophobia Washington has been encouraging in the Baltic States, Ukraine, and in some countries in the Caucasus.

It was Washington that began stirring things up, stressing the need for Latinization in Central Asian countries through various channels under its control in Kazakhstan, where Russian is not only a native language for the ethnic Russians who live there, but also for many of the Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Germans and Koreans living in Kazakhstan. Now the Russian language has even been erased from Kazakhstan’s national tenge banknotes. Around 300 thousand people have emigrated from Kazakhstan over the past 10 years, most of them Slavs, and to some extent, it is due to this policy. As it was put in an article published in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita in November 2017, “by abandoning the Cyrillic alphabet, Nazarbayev is cutting the umbilical cord with Russia.”

Latinization has also been foisted in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

However, as we have seen in recent years, switching to the Latin alphabet has clearly been an unhappy experience in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Thus, it is worth recalling that Uzbekistan looked to the Turkish model in its first years of independence, and switching to the Latin alphabet was viewed a sort of “basis for unity”. Transitioning to the Latin alphabet also came to symbolize national identity and independence for the new Uzbek authorities. At the time however, no one stopped to consider the financial side of this transition, the costs associated with transliterating a huge archive of literature from Cyrillic into Latin script. Another thing no one saw coming was the conflict between generations reading in different alphabets. Relations between Uzbekistan and Turkey cooled within a very short space of time, the alphabet stayed the same, but the country’s education suffered a significant loss, which even affected basic literacy.

Attempts to switch to Latin have unleashed significant problems in Kazakhstan. In the 80 years since Kazakhstan made the transition from Arabic to Cyrillic, a huge network of libraries was created in this country, even in remote villages. The country had already achieved a literacy rate of 100%, which meant that the whole “matrix” of thinking for the entire population would need to be changed in switching to a new alphabet, and that would not only entail significant financial costs, but would also create generational conflict.

People in the region have responded to the attempts the West has been making to replace the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet in Central Asian countries as fast as possible. They have increasingly begun to realize that there is no point in making this transition. Russian is a second language in Central Asian countries anyway, these states are geographically, economically, politically and linguistically distant from the West, and they are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, where the working language is Russian. Given these circumstances, there is a growing understanding that this issue requires a logical approach and some common sense, and linguistic problems should not be politicized.

Various foreign NGOs, such as Freedom House and other similar organizations, have been interfering in the domestic affairs of Central Asian states, destroying the linguistic and cultural heritage of the people who live there, and clearly pose a threat to their constitutional order, a threat coming from outside the region, so it is therefore unsurprising that this issue has been discussed more and more heatedly over recent years, with an increasingly resounding negative tone.

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New US Ambassador to Tajikistan Seems to be Up To the Task

By Martin Berger – New Eastern Outlook – 29.03.2019

To this day Central Asia remains an arena of struggle for a number of major international players, namely Russia, China and the United States. In this struggle, Washington has now started losing its influence, which resulted in a series of desperate attempts to establish a sound foothold in this region, which could serve as a bulwark against both Russia and China. Against this backdrop, it’s no coincidence that the so-called private intelligence service known as Stratfor would reveal in its forecast for this year that the United States is planning to step up its efforts in Central Asia, especially in those countries that share a common border with Afghanistan, namely Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This service won’t go into much detail about the efforts it’s referring to, but it’s hardly a secret that Washington has been busy redeploying radical Islamists from Syria, where they are getting defeated by the government forces and its allies, to Afghanistan, while making claims about its devotion to the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.

In this situation, a relatively small regional player – Tajikistan found itself at the forefront of Washington’s attempt to push Moscow and Beijing out of the region. The US is particularly interested in influencing the foreign policy pursued by Dushanbe due to the two following reasons.

First of all, Tajikistan is not just an immediate neighbor of Afghanistan, but it shares the longest common border with this country out of all of the former Soviet republics – 800 miles in total. Secondly, Dushanbe has been enjoying close ties with Russia, which resulted in Moscow establishing its largest overseas military installation in Tajikistan – the 201st Military Base.

Due to the negligible size of its economy and its relative geographic isolation, Tajikistan can hardly be described as a promising trade partner of the United States, as Western oligarchs would have a hard time justifying investments in this country. So, the only approach that Washington can take in influencing Tajikistan into those decisions that it’s not willing to make is to complain about Dushanbe undermining democratic values, while pursuing closer military cooperation with it. For instance, as it’s been reported by a number of media sources, last year the Pentagon handed out 8 million dollars worth of military equipment to Dushanbe.

However, the situation on the ground may change rather abruptly and unexpectedly at any given moment. For instance, on the back of a long list of complaints Washington has made about Dushanbe being “not democratic enough” the West may decide to pursue a regime change in this country, which will result in the CIA and the Pentagon cutting costs on the illegal transit of opiates from Afghanistan.

That is why, in order to achieve its goals, the United States has been actively promoting the notion of establishing a regional young leadership network in Central Asia, under which young activists from Central Asian states would be able to receive education in Western universities together with the offspring of the regional elites. It goes without saying that after returning home those youngsters would promote Western neoliberal ideas, pedaling American interests like there’s no tomorrow. That is why Washington spends hundreds of millions of dollars on sponsoring various non-governmental organizations in Tajikistan.

In recent years, a large network of various organizations has been working for American money in the country, including, among others, the Soros Foundation, the Aga Khan, the Institute of War and Peace, and so on. In fact, there’s there’s well over 3,000 non-profit organizations registered in Tajikistan, with most of them being involved in the promotion of Western interests, including news agencies and law firms.

Back in the early 90s the United States and Tajikistan signed a deal on mutual attempts to facilitate the promotion of humanitarian and technical assistance. It’s hard to say how much money Washington has spent so far while promoting its narrative in Dushanbe, but it’s clear that USAID alone spent some 450 million dollars on such activities in the last three decades alone.

However, a series of “color revolutions” that Washington staged across the globe resulted in a considerable tightening of anti-NGO legislation in Tajikistan, which means that Dushanbe has been steadily increasing its ability to shape the internal situation within the country.

Now the US is testing a new strategy of coercion developed at the Pentagon for Venezuela and a number of other countries that dare to disagree publicly with Washington. It involves the use of a number of leverages, including financial sanctions and offensive online operations against the target country, along with the support of the political opposition and continuous threats of imminent military aggression.

There’s every reason to believe that the United States is going to test this new approach in Tajikistan, combining anti-government street protests with armed “revolutionary” jihad mounted by radical forces and, quite possibly, supported by a rebellion of local criminal groups. At the same time, Washington’s calculations of such developments clearly suggest that the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, Muhiddin Kabiri would be advertised as the new leader of Tajikistan, while the prominent Badakhshan drug dealers would be tasked with fielding militants to support the runaway Tajik commander of the special forces who defected to ISIS, Gulmurod Khalimov. The Tajik portal Akhbor, in particular, has already announced that the United States initiated the transfer of elite ISIS fighters from Afghanistan that are being led by Halimov, with Saudi Arabia footing the bill for this operation.

Against this background, the arrival of the new US ambassador to Dushanbe, John Pommersheim can only be regarded as a troubling development. Pommersheim is considered to be one of the best experts on Russia in the entire State Department, as he would study Russian in Moscow after obtain scholarship from the US Department of Defense. The man who made a career at the US Information Agency (USIA) back in the 1980s is being transferred to Tajikistan from the US embassy in Kazakhstan. Moreover, Pommersheim is reverted as an expert on Central Asia and the Caucasus. His appointment in Tajikistan further demonstrates Washington’s growing interest in Central Asia. By using Tajikistan as a bridgehead, the United States can inflict extensive damage to both Russia and China, that are being described as the strategic opponents of Washington. In particular, should it succeed in destabilizing Central Asia, Washington would render the entire concept of the One Belt One Road initiative senseless, which implies China reorienting its trade routes to Europe from sea to land.

Of course, it would be naive to assume that John Pommersheim will start staging a “color revolution” in Dushanbe on the day of his arrival. As of now, the US cannot build enough momentum to force Russia or China out of Tajikistan. Instead it’s going to support all sorts of anti-Chinese and anti-Russian sentiments, taking advantage of the network of NGOs, the tactics that Pommersheim managed to master a long while ago.

We are going to follow the achievements of Pommersheim in Dushanbe rather closely, as it seems unlikely that Washington would have sent such a figure to Tajikistan for him just to enjoy the view.

March 29, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daesh Militants Transfered From Pakistan to Tajikistan – Russian Official

Sputnik – January 28, 2019

Unidentified helicopters transported a large number of Daesh terrorists from Pakistan to the border with Tajikistan, close to Russia’s southern borders, Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov said on Monday. Pakistan and Tajikistan are separated by Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor region.

According to the Russian minister, there may be some preparations for a provocation that may affect Russia.

“Daesh fighters in massive quantities were transported from Pakistani territory to the border with Tajikistan. In that area, perhaps, the militants might stage massive provocations that would result in huge amounts of refugees fleeing the territory. This would have an impact on Russia,” Zubov said.

This comes after earlier Col. Gen. Andrey Novikov, the head of the Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorism Centre, stated that Daesh terrorists were being transported to Afghanistan and Pakistan after facing defeat in Syria and Iraq.

Last year, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported that US helicopters evacuated Daesh leaders from several areas across the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor to the country’s northeast. The US-led coalition, in turn, denied all accusations.

See also:

Is There a ‘Secret US Hand’ Supporting Daesh in Afghanistan?

January 28, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

China’s Investment Trap has Become a Major Concern in Central Asia

By Grete Mautner – New Eastern Outlook – May 26, 2018

Perhaps the most curious topic of today’s Central Asian agenda is the growing dependence of local states on Chinese loans, which would often be referred to in regional media sources as “means of neocolonialism.”

In recent years, China has visibly stepped up its involvement in the affairs of Central Asia states, taking advantage of both its loans and its soft power. However, Beijing is trying to pacify worried voices across the region terrified by the demographic and economic might of China. There’s no denying that Central Asia for China is among the most crucial regions, since it shares a common border with a number of regional countries that play a pivotal part in ensuring China’s security and supply of energy and resources.

Nobody is making a big secret today of the fact that China lends regional governments long-term loans with low annual interest rates that can get as low as 2%. Against the backdrop of those hard-to-get Western financial investments, there’s really no alternative to Beijing’s loans. However, those always come with strings attached, as China’s loans would often be provided to back up large infrastructure projects, with Beijing’s contractors demanded be involved, providing labor, logistics and technology.

This financial hegemony never seems to be after a swift return on investments, as it would be typically interested in getting the other state financially dependent. The debt that has grown with time can be restructured and paid through granting China access to raw materials or stakes in the national companies of those states that borrowed money from Beijing. But in what way does this differ from the classic colonial scheme when investments would often be repaid with natural resources and lands? It’s no wonder that the West is trying to do the same to Ukraine these days, demanding it to open the agricultural market to bring its fertile lands to the hammer.

Kazakhstan

There’s little doubt that Kazakhstan ranks first among regional states who’s national wealth relies on Chinese loans and direct investments. According to its national bank, Astana owed China the staggering 12.6 billion dollars at the beginning of this year.

Against the backdrop that China’s loans are granted on the condition of Beijing receiving access to this country’s raw materials along with stakes in a handful of national enterprises, the topic of Chinese loans remains by far the most uncomfortable for Kazakhstan to discuss publicly. The situation got even worse when in 2016 in local media sources announced that Kazakhstan was planning to put another 1.7 million hectares of land on sale, with spontaneous mass protests breaking out across the state, as no one believed that the land would not be sold to foreigners. These protests led to the adoption of moratorium on such sales until the end of 2021, but still such a possibility remains on the cards.

Kyrgyzstan

The American Center for Global Development published a report on China’s debtors last March, identifying a total of eight most financially vulnerable countries. Of the Central Asian countries, both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan made the top of the list, since the sheer amount of money they are bound to pay Beijing has surpassed 50% of their total foreign debt.

Last year, Bishkek‘s national debt reached the staggering rate of 65% of this Kyrgyz state GDP, with external debt making up to 90% of this total.

As it was announced at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance of Kyrgyzstan in April, the total debt of Kyrgyzstan to China has reached 1.7 billion dollars. The sole largest outside creditor of Bishkek is China’s own Export-Import Bank, that can demand local politicians to hand a total of 470,000 dollars back at any given moment. Sure, China’s involvement in Kyrgyzstan would be unthinkable without large infrastructural projects like roads, electric power infrastructure, along with local industries like the oil refinery of Kara-Balta and gold mines of Taldy-Bulak Levoberezhny.

The country will have to pay China back at least 320 million dollars in the next five years. At the same time, local elected representatives would repeatedly stress the fact that back in the day when an agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China was drafted, those negotiating it were not really taking Kyrgyz interests into consideration, so there’s a chance that when the above mentioned period is over, Bishkek won’t have the money to pay its largest creditor. In addition, the agreement implies that all legal disputes between Kyrgyzstan and China are to be settled in the the Hong Kong arbitration court, which doesn’t make things any more promising for the debtor. Moreover, in the next couple years additional 300 million are to be spent on the servicing of the external debt of Kyrgyzstan, and, according to the local ministry of finance, the Kyrgyz Republic will be theoretically capable to repay its debt to China in the next quarter century or so.

The matter of the massive Kyrgyz debt to China is kept out of the public discussion in the country, as it can trigger massive protests. But since Bishkek has an abundance of natural resources in the form of gold, iron, rare earth metals and other deposits, Beijing doesn’t look too worried about the prospects of its involvement in the affairs of this state.

Tajikistan

In the regional media, Tajikistan is often being referred to as the “ultimate hostage of Beijing” or even “the Chinese colony”, along with all sorts of equally humiliating comparisons.

Dushanbe’s national debt to the Republic to China at the beginning of the year reached 1209.6 million dollars, which amount to 50% of the total foreign debt of Tajikistan.

China is eagerly making investments into Tajik energy and road construction projects, along with a wide range of other sectors, including aluminum production, cellular communications, and gold mining.

As for the repayment for this massive debt, China’s TBEA has recently received exclusive rights to mine the Upper Kumarg gold mine. Earlier, this same company obtained access to the East Douba deposits. TBEA will be extracting gold from these sites until it returns the funds invested in the construction of a large power plant in Tajikistan. Earlier, TBEA received similar rights on the mining of coal in Tajikistan. But now it’s talking gold.

In addition to natural resources and shares in national enterprises, Tajikistan can grant China control over its transport routes and lands. For instance, back in 2011 Tajikistan surrendered to China 1% of its total territory, which amounts to more than 400 square miles of once disputed lands in the Eastern Pamirs. China is particularly interested in those areas that are rich in minerals (uranium, gold, bauxite, asbestos, rock crystal and much more). Therefore, it is possible that China is going to be more that willing to explore various scenarios of Dushanbe fulfilling its financial obligations to it in the future.

Turkmenistan

This republic is being known as a place where China has occupied a dominant position in a number of financial fields. The country has virtually no other revenues on top of those that it receives from exporting natural gas to China, however this country’s closed nature makes further analysis virtually impossible.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, perhaps, can be found in a list of less defendant states in the region when China’s loans are concerned. However, recently China has been trying to address this drawback, as Uzbekistan looks a much more promising market for investments than most its neighbors.

There’s no point in arguing that loans are an instrument of external pressure. And China is known for its way of never writing off debts, like Russia would often do. On top of this, Beijing has a large number of unresolved territorial disputes, like the ones with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. And if we take into consideration the fact the return of China’s historic territories is part of Beijing’s foreign policy, one can not exclude the fact that land concessions in exchange for investments will remain among China’s most desirable aspect of its foreign policy in the Central Asia region.

Today, there are strong fears across the region that China, which has become one of the largest regional players and a principal partner can demand them to pay the whole sum, while  Beijing sees no reason to be finicky in its investments, but there’s those that don’t want to experience this.

May 26, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 3 Comments

US in Afghanistan to Influence Russia, Iran, China – Russian Foreign Ministry

Sputnik – March 14, 2108

The United States retains its presence in Afghanistan to exert influence on neighboring countries and regional rivals – namely, Russia, Iran and China, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“In our opinion, the United States is in Afghanistan primarily with the aim of controlling and influencing the political processes in its neighboring countries, and also demonstrating its power to its regional competitors, primarily China, Russia and Iran. The United States is clearly trying to achieve destabilization of Central Asia and later transfer it to Russia in order to subsequently present itself as the only defender against potential and emerging threats in the region,” Kabulov said.

According to the diplomat, Russia and other countries neighboring with Afghanistan have questions about the true goals and time frame of the US military presence in the Central Asian country.

“If the United States and its NATO allies intend to continue their destructive policy in Afghanistan, this will mean that the West is heading toward the revival of the Cold War era in this part of the world. We closely monitor the developments and are ready to respond in cooperation with our partners and other like-minded people,” Kabulov noted.

The diplomat pointed out that Washington still failed to understand that the Afghan conflict could not be resolved solely by military means, stressing that it was impossible to defeat the Taliban by force.

Moscow is puzzled by the attempts of the United States and NATO to persuade Afghanistan to replace Russian weapons and military equipment, such move leads to reduction of Afghan’s military potential, Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“The course taken by the United States and NATO to persuade Kabul to replace Russia-made small arms and aircraft is surprising, as it will inevitably lead to a decrease in the combat capabilities of the Afghan armed forces and further deterioration of the situation,” Kabulov said.

The diplomat reminded that a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on Russia’s defense industry assistance to Afghanistan had entered into force in November 2016, adding that the document created the legal framework for Russian assistance in arming and equipping the Afghan security forces.

“At the moment, negotiations are underway on repairs and supplies of spare parts for the Afghan Air Force’s helicopters for various purposes, produced in Russia (the Soviet Union),” Kabulov added.

Afghanistan Parliamentary Election

The parliamentary election in Afghanistan is unlikely to take place in July in the current circumstances, Kabulov said.

“I do not think that the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan will be held in July this year as scheduled. The Taliban continue to control about half of the country’s territory, engage in hostilities, organize and carry out terrorist attacks in large cities, and, apparently, are not going to make compromises and reconciliation with the Afghan government,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) is also unlikely to accomplish all the necessary procedures before the date set for the vote, given that the commission has announced earlier that the registration of voters will complete only by early August, the diplomat noted.

Furthermore, disagreements between the presidential administration and its political opposition regarding the parameters of the upcoming elections still remain unresolved, the official noted.

“In my opinion, if elections are conducted in the current circumstances, their results will not improve the political situation in the country and confidence in the current government, will not force the armed opposition to cooperate with the government,” Kabulov added.

The diplomat also noted that the Daesh terror group posed a serious threat to holding the election.

“The Daesh jihadists pose a serious threat to the security of the conduct of elections, especially in the north and a number of eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Some polling stations in the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Faryab and Ghazni are the most problematic in terms of security, according to the IEC data. I think that, in fact, the list of problematic areas in terms of organization of voting is much longer,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan Reconciliation Talks

Russia considers the so-called Moscow format of talks an optimal platform for the promotion of national reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov noted.

“Unfortunately, the existence of a large number of international formats on the Afghan issue has not significantly contributed to the involvement of the Taliban in peace negotiations. In this regard, we consider the Moscow format of consultations launched by us in early 2017 as the optimal platform for substantive negotiations to promote national reconciliation and establish a constructive dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” Kabulov said.

Kabulov also noted that Moscow considered the format of talks in the Afghan capital as one approach toward achieving a collective solution to the problems surrounding Afghan settlement.

“A signal of international support for the resolution of the intra-Afghan conflict through political dialogue with the government of Afghanistan has been sent to the Taliban. The Taliban ignored the recent meeting of the ‘Kabul process’ in the Afghan capital, insisting on direct talks with the United States,” the diplomat added.

In February 2017, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and Afghanistan came together in Moscow for talks to promote the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan through regional cooperation with Kabul in the leading role. Apart from the aforementioned states, the latest round in April gathered five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The United States refused to take part in the meeting.

Afghanistan has long suffered political, social and security-related instability because of the simmering insurgency, including that of the Taliban, but also because of the actions of the Daesh terror group.

The United States has been in Afghanistan for almost 17 years following the 9/11 attacks. Before his election, Trump slammed sending US troops and resources to the Central Asian country.

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Propaganda, Confrontation and Profit

By Brian CLOUGHLEY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 06.12.2017

The waves, the artificial tides of anti-Russian propaganda continue to beat upon the ears and eyes of Western citizens, spurred by Washington politicians and bureaucrats whose motives vary from deviously duplicitous to blatantly commercial. It is no coincidence that there has been vastly increased expenditure on US weaponry by Eastern European countries.

Complementing the weapons’ build-up, which is so sustaining and lucrative for the US industrial-military complex, the naval, air and ground forces of the US-NATO military alliance continue operations ever closer to Russia’s borders.

Shares and dividends in US arms manufacturing companies have rocketed, in a most satisfactory spinoff from Washington’s policy of global confrontation, and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) records that “arms sales are recognized widely as an important instrument of state power. States have many incentives to export arms. These include enhancing the security of allies or partners; constraining the behaviour of adversaries; using the prospect of arms transfers as leverage on governments’ internal or external behaviour; and creating the economics of scale necessary to support a domestic arms industry.”

The CRS notes that arms deals “are often a key component in Congress’s approach to advancing US foreign policy objectives,” which is especially notable around the Baltic and throughout the Middle East, where US wars have created a bonanza for US weapons makers — and for the politicians whom the manufacturers reward so generously for their support. (Additionally, in 2017 arms manufacturers spent $93,937,493 on lobbying Congress.)

Some countries, however, do not wish to purchase US weaponry, and they are automatically categorised as being influenced by Russia, which is blamed for all that has gone wrong in America over the past couple of years. This classification is especially notable in the Central Asian Republics.

The US military’s Central Command (Centcom) states that its “area of responsibility spans more than 4 million square miles and is populated by more than 550 million people from 22 ethnic groups, speaking 18 languages… and confessing [sic] multiple religions which transect national borders. The demographics create opportunities for tension and rivalry.” Centcom is deeply engaged in the US wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and supports Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen, and the extent of its influence in the Pentagon’s self-allotted geographical Area of Responsibility is intriguing, to say the least. Some of its priorities were revealed in March 2017 by the Commander of this enormous military realm, General Joseph Votel, in testimony to the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives in Washington.

General Votel’s description of US self-allocated “responsibilities” was astonishing in its imperialistic arrogance.

As Commander of Centcom, General Votel gave the Armed Services Committee a colourful tour of his territory, describing nations in terms ranging from condescendingly supportive to patently insolent, and he devoted much time to describing relations with countries abutting Russia, Iran and China, which nations, he declared, are trying “to limit US influence in the sub-region.” That “sub-region” includes many countries immediately on the borders of Russia, Iran and China, and averaging 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometres) from Washington.

CENTCOM countries (coloured)

First he dealt with Kazakhstan with which the US has its “most advanced military relationship in Central Asia” in furtherance of which Washington is “making notable progress… despite enduring Russian influence.” It is obviously unacceptable to the Pentagon that Russia wishes to maintain cordial relations with a country with which it has a border of 6,800 kilometres. Then General Votel went into fantasyland by claiming that “Kazakhstan remains the most significant regional contributor to Afghan stability…” which even the members of the Congressional Committee would have realised is spurious nonsense.

But more nonsense was to follow, with General Votel referring to Kyrgyzstan in patronising terms usually associated with a Viceroy or other colonial master of a region that Votel describes as “widely characterized by pervasive instability and conflict,” which he failed to note were caused by the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He told the Committee that Kyrgyzstan “sees political pressure from its larger, more powerful neighbours, including Russia, hosting a small Russian airbase outside the capital, Bishkek. Despite ongoing challenges in our bilateral and security cooperation, we continue to seek opportunities to improve our mil-to-mil relationship.” He did not explain why Kyrgyzstan should be expected to embrace a military alliance with United States Central Command, but Viceroys don’t have to provide explanations.

Votel then moved to consider Tajikistan with which “our mil-to-mil relationship is deepening despite Moscow’s enduring ties and the presence of the military base near Tajikistan’s capital of Dushanbe, Russia’s largest military base outside of its borders.” Not only this, says Votel, but China (having a 400 Kilometre border with Tajikistan) has had the temerity to have “initiated a much stronger military cooperation partnership with Tajikistan, adding further complexity to Tajikistan’s multi-faceted approach to security cooperation.”

No: China hasn’t added any complexity to Tajikistan’s circumstances. What has complicated their relations is the fact that Afghanistan is in a state of chaos, following the US invasion of 2001, and drugs and terrorists cross the border (1,300 kilometres long) from Afghanistan into Tajikistan, which is trying to protect itself. During its sixteen years of war in Afghanistan there has been no attempt by the United States to secure that border.

None of these countries wants to be forced into a military pact with the United States, and Turkmenistan (border with Afghanistan 750 kilometres) has made it clear it doesn’t want to be aligned with anyone. But General Votel states that its “UN-recognized policy of ‘positive neutrality’ presents a challenge with respect to US engagement.” No matter what is desired by Turkmenistan, it seems, there must always be a way for the United States Central Command to establish military relations and, as General Votel told the Defence Committee, “we are encouraged somewhat by Turkmenistan’s expressed interest in increased mil-to-mil engagement with the US within the limits of their ‘positive neutrality’ policy.”

In the minds (to use the word loosely) of General Votel and his kind, it doesn’t matter if a country wants nothing whatever to do with the United States’ military machine, and wants very much to be left alone to get on with things without any interference. Adoption of such a policy by any nation presents a “challenge” and the United States, which in this region is overseen by General Votel’s Central Command, is determined to seek military “engagement” irrespective of what is desired by governments. Arms sales would swiftly follow.

Votel’s tour of his area of responsibility covered Afghanistan, about which his most absurd assertion  was “I believe what Russia is attempting to do is they are attempting to be an influential party in this part of the world. I think it is fair to assume they may be providing some sort of support to [the Taliban] in terms of weapons or other things that may be there.”

There was not a shred of evidence provided, but the Committee accepted the pronouncement. Obviously if an allegation is made about Russia it doesn’t matter if it is false. It must be believed. But unfortunately for the imperial Votel and his deferential audience, a person with some sense of truth and balance came up two months later with a statement rubbishing Votel’s unfounded and provocative accusation. In May the Director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency told a Senate Committee that “We have seen indication that [Russia] offered some level of support [to the Taliban], but I have not seen real physical evidence of weapons or money being transferred.” The mainstream media gave no publicity to the truth, and continue to blame Russia for all the ills that befall the US Empire, at home and overseas.

The state of affairs was summed up admirably by Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation on December 4 when he wrote that “Central to any national-security state is the need for official enemies, ones that are used to frighten and agitate the citizenry. If there are no official enemies, the American citizenry might begin asking some discomforting questions: What do we need a national-security state for? Why not abolish the CIA and dismantle the military-industrial complex and the NSA. Why can’t we have our limited-government, constitutional republic back?”

The Motto of the Pentagon’s Central Command is “Prepare, Pursue, Prevail.” and the Central Asian Republics would be well-advised to bear in mind these threats and think hard about the underlying motif of the US military-industrial complex which is “Propagandise, Provoke, Profit.”

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan is ripe for proxy war

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 20, 2017

Russia has hinted in the past that the United States is covertly sponsoring the Islamic State in Afghanistan. On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson raised the bar by alleging that “foreign fighters” who were transferred by “unknown helicopters” have perpetrated a massacre of Hazara Shias in the Sar-e-Pol province in northern Afghanistan. The spokesperson said:

  • We can see attempts to stir up ethnic conflict in the country… Cases of unidentified helicopter flights to territory controlled by extremists in other northern provinces of Afghanistan are also recorded. For example, there is evidence that on August 8, four helicopters made flights from the airbase of the Afghan National Army’s 209th corps in Mazar-i-Sharif to the area captured by the militants in the Aqcha district of the Jowzjan province. It is noteworthy that witnesses of these flights began to fall off the radar of law enforcement agencies. It seems that the command of the NATO forces controlling the Afghan sky stubbornly refuses to notice these incidents.

From the above, it appears that sections of the Afghan armed forces and the NATO command (which controls Afghan air space) are hand in glove in these covert operations. No doubt, this is a very serious allegation. The attack on the Hazara Shias must be taken as a message intended for Tehran. Historically and culturally, Iran has affinities with the Hazara Shia community in Afghanistan. Possibly, the Trump administration, which has vowed to overthrow the Iranian regime, is opening a ‘second front’ by the IS against Iran from the east.

Interestingly, the Russian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement on Friday on the alarming drug situation in Afghanistan. It pointed out that:

  • A sharp increase in drug production is expected in Afghanistan this year and one-third of the country’s population is now involved in cultivation of opium poppy.
  • The geography of the Afghan drug trafficking has expanded and now reaches the African continent.
  • Tonnes of chemicals for processing narcotics are illegally imported into Afghanistan – with Italy, France and Netherlands “among main suppliers”.
  • The US and NATO are either unwilling or incapable of curbing the illegal activity.

Russia and Iran cannot turn a blind eye to the hostile activities by the US (and NATO) in their backyard, transforming the anti-Taliban war into a proxy war. They cannot but view the Afghan conflict through the prism of their deepening tensions with the US.

What are Russia’s options? The Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with the top brass in Moscow on August 18 that the Afghan conflict poses a threat to Central Asia’s stability. He said that Russia plans to hold joint military exercises later this year with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Russia has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Again, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan, said recently that if the Afghan government and the US are unable to counter the IS threat, Russia will resort to military force. Kabulov disclosed that Russia has raised in the UN Security Council the air dropping of supplies for the IS fighters in at least three provinces in northern Afghanistan by unidentified aircraft.

Of course, it is inconceivable that Russia will put “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan. But if the IS breaches the borders of the Central Asian states, it becomes the “red line”, Russia will hit back. Russia is reinforcing its bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Significantly, in a joint military exercise with Tajikistan in July, Russia tested its Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles, one of the most advanced weapons in the Russian arsenal, with a range of 500 kilometers and a payload of 700 kg. Iskander is equipped with terminal guidance systems with the capability to overcome missile defences. Iskander’s accuracy could be better than 10 meters. (Russia has deployed the deadly weapon to Syria.)

With the exit of White House strategist Steve Bannon, an inveterate anti-war ideologue in the Trump administration who wanted the Afghan war to be brought to an end, the generals now have the upper hand in controlling the US policy. Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor HR McMaster favour deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan. The ‘known unknown’ is John Kelly, whom Trump recently appointed as his chief of staff. But there are enough indications that Kelly (a retired Marine Corps general and father of a fallen Marine, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010) almost certainly shares the opinion of Mattis and McMaster.

The more one looks at it, President Donald Trump’s real challenge is not about winning the war against the Taliban, but the high risk he’ll be incurring, by taking his generals’ advice, to put his imprimatur on a full-fledged proxy war in Afghanistan against Russia, Iran and China.

August 22, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, False Flag Terrorism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment