We are getting very concerned about the discussion in America about Afghanistan and the future of America’s mission there. It appears that the vast majority of American opinionators on TV and in Print have zero knowledge about Afghan history. So, myths are being spread about the land and its people. That prompted us last week to write an article about these myths titled Et Tu Stratfor – American Myth About Afghanistan – From Alexander to Soviets.
This week, we heard a discussion between Chris Mathews of MSNBC and Richard Haass, President of Council of Foreign Relations. This was an intellectually worthless and thoroughly depressing conversation. It seems as if Mr. Haass was willing to be an utter sycophant to the political dictates of Mr. Mathews. Or, perish the thought, he is genuinely clueless. This would not surprise us, because in our opinion, Mr, Haass is an arrogant man. Arrogance, we feel, is the preserve of people with half knowledge of a subject. They know just enough to be arrogant but not enough to be humble.
So, we decided to write our thoughts about the strategic importance of Afghanistan to America. The long term reasons to stay in Afghanistan go far beyond Terrorism, Al Qaeda & the Taleban.
Afghanistan Is Where The World Meets On Land
The word “World” is a racially pregnant word. When European-American reporters uses this word, they mean Europe & America. They should read Europe’s history. Several hundred years ago, Europe was desperate to build links with India and through India to Asia. But, strong Arab kingdoms blocked their land routes.
This is why Vasco de Gama set out to travel to India around Africa. He discovered South Africa and called its edge the Cape of Good Hope. This made Portugal rich. Then, Columbus decided to travel around the world to find an alternate sea route to India. He discovered America in the process. This led to the Spanish invasion of South America and brought untold riches to Spain.
The British decided to build a faster route to India and so they built the Suez Canal. The rest, as they say is history.
This is simply to point out that Europe has always realized that it needs to have a presence at the nexus of world trade. Today, America sits at the nexus of every naval trade route in the world.
Long before, naval routes were discovered, the world’s trade ran along the Silk Road. This brings us to Afghanistan, that portion of the world where Indian subcontinent, Iran, Central Asia (yesterday’s Soviet Union) and China meet. If you don’t believe us, look at the maps below.
(Source – Wikipedia) (Source – Wikipedia)
The map on the left is a color map that shows the land routes (in red) from China to Central Asia to Iran and through Iran to Turkey, Greece and Europe. Afghanistan is the place to the right of Persia and just below the joining of the red road links (the tip of our annotated green line). Now do you realize why India & Iran have fought for the past 2000 years for control of Afghanistan?
This is not just old history. Central Asia is regaining its importance. It is a region with substantial Oil Reserves. Secondly, its economies are on the mend. Afghanistan provides access to Pakistan & India from Central Asia. From Pakistan, it is a straight line to the Persian Gulf. This is why Russia always wanted control of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan also provides access from the Indian subcontinent to Central Asian countries. Afghanistan also provides access to the troubled Chinese province of Xinjiang in southwest China. Notice Kashgar on the map on the right. That is a strategic town in Xinjiang on the silk road.
This is why Afghanistan was where the Great Game between England and Russia was played. It is where the next great game between Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan & India will be played. Turkey is also gearing up to play in this game. After all, Turkmenistan (northeast neighbor of Afghanistan) is called that because its people are related ethnically to Turkey. Recall that Turkey was the only Muslim country to criticize China when China cracked down in Xinjiang.
Chance Favors The Prepared Mind
The Chinese Leaders are masters of the Prepared Mind concept. China would not have risked going to war with India in 1950s to annex Tibet. But India’s prime minister Nehru, is an act of historical stupidity, unilaterally pulled the Indian Army out of Tibet. The Chinese were prepared and they walked in.
The Chinese are also determined and ambitious. Tibet is gone virtually forever. There is no way China will give it up. Tibet is strategically crucial to China. It provides direct land access to Xinjiang for Eastern China. It gives China control of the top of the world and a direct access to Kashmir.
America, frankly, lucked out in Afghanistan. The 2001 attacks allowed America the moral ground to remove the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. Now, America is in control of this vital strategic asset, this gateway between Central Asia, China, Iran, Pakistan and India. It boggles our mind that reasonably patriotic Americans can even consider leaving Afghanistan for the next 10-15 years.
Today, Afghanistan is the land nexus of the World, the World of nearly 3.5 billion people with growing incomes and rising aspirations. America lucked into this nexus position. The question is whether the American mind is prepared to seize this chance the way China did with Tibet.
Unlike Iraq in 2006, this World wants America to stay in Afghanistan. This is of course the real World – India, Iran, Russia, China, Turkey, the Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan & Turkmenistan.
The only regime that does not want America to stay in Afghanistan is the Pakistani Army and the ISI, the Army’s Intelligence service. Notice we do not say Pakistan, the country. Because, the Pakistani people will leave peacefully if American pacifies Afghanistan. But as they say in Pakistan, the Pakistani Army owns the country and not the other way around.
If America runs away from Afghanistan, it will never be allowed in again. The game for Afghanistan will begin again, this time with China, Pakistan, India & Iran. We would favor the China-Pakistan axis to win this prize. What is the prize? Central Asia, access to the Persian Gulf and Trade with 3.5 billion people.
If you don’t believe us, look at the maps again.
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