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China and the Afghan War

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Now joining us again from London to discuss the Afghan-Pakistan situation is Muhammad Junaid. He’s a researcher working on his PhD, comes from Peshawar in Pakistan. Thanks for joining us, Muhammad.

MUHAMMAD JUNAID, PHD STUDENT AND RESEARCHER: Thank you.

JAY: So in the first segment we were talking about the campaign in the south of Afghanistan, comparing it to what had happened with the Russians. But the bigger situation now is just exactly what is the US objective here. And China, of course, has to be in their calculations. Talk a little bit about how you think the China strategy for the US affects their decision here?

JUNAID: It is mainly about China, actually. China is spreading in all directions. It is going to Africa. Last night I was looking, and the news was that China wants to buy the debt of Greece. So they’re expanding in a real, in a very aggressive fashion towards Europe as well. Sounds like Russia, you know, spreading. There is Iran as well, which is also, you know, a thorn in the side of America. The main problem is the energy war. The Central Asian states are really unexplored, and there is supposed to be a big wealth of minerals and carbon.

JAY: Yeah, they’re calling it the Saudi Arabia of lithium.

JUNAID: Exactly. Afghanistan is something like that. So China has this policy that they want to make this area prosper by making it an energy corridor. Now, it will surely work against America, because all the energy that China, you know, gets is mostly now through the Straits of Malacca, where the American influence is huge. And recently Pakistan has offered China to take the Gwadar Port, where Chinese has already invested a huge amount of money. If that port is taken, it simply means that there can be a pipeline coming from the Gulf states which can run upwards to China. There can be another pipeline coming from Iran, which can go to India and which can go to China. So in this case India also benefits. And the Turkmenistan pipeline can also be plugged into that. In addition to that, the Russian gas can also be connected to that. So all this area can become a big pipeline land, and Pakistan will become a pipeline-istan, as a lot of the scholars has already said, that it can become pipeline-istan. Pakistan will get a few billion dollars per year in royalties only, in that case. So America is set to block that from every aspect. That is the long-term strategy.

JAY: That would change the power dynamics throughout the whole Middle East.

JUNAID: The Gulf states will not need to bank on America totally, because China is an emerging economy. There is India. Simply, there are about 2.5 billion people, you know, working in big economies, and that is the place to invest, and, you know, that is the place to supply all the oil to. This is a horrible situation for America from another dimension, because Turkey is also expanding, and Turkey is trying to have a very leading role. If Turkey is successful in what it is doing right now, it is going to connect Europe to all this game, and then Europe will also want a share of all that oil and all that gas. In fact, we know that Eastern Europe is being, you know, exploited by Russia from many dimensions, because they’re, you know, supplying all the gas, and sometimes, you know, they turn off the knob on them. So Europe will be, you know, better off by this kind of oil pipeline, oil system. So this is the bigger game, as you can see.

JAY: Well, you would think, then, that the conclusion US policy might reach is for a massive aid effort in Pakistan to deal with the flooding, which has been described as, you know, having had a worse effect than the tsunami or even the earthquake in Haiti, and try to develop some pro-US public opinion in Pakistan, instead of pursuing the war in Afghanistan, in Waziristan, and such, which seems to be alienating Pakistan. So it’s hard to understand what the logic behind US policy is here.

JUNAID: This looks to be a very rational, you know, path to take. However, the historical context is very different. China has a huge, huge historical advantage as far as trust is concerned between Pakistan and China. America has a huge disadvantaged position on that. Secondly, the geography of the area is such that China will have a huge advantage anyhow. So if Pakistan is stronger, then they will not need any American aid, and America can be told to mind their own business. This can be, you know, the result. So for America, strengthening Pakistan to such an extent that they can come to that [path] is not the right strategy right now. They will want to push them from different directions, for example, trying to raid the tribal areas through drones, and sometimes through their aircrafts and military helicopters, and also trying to trickle the aid and attach it to different kind of conditions that they will put on Pakistan. And this is the strategy right now.

JAY: But then does that mean that the long-term objective in Afghanistan is long-term bases, which they have, and they have agreement from the Karzai government to have long-term bases? On the other hand, you hear Obama talking about getting out.

JUNAID: As you know, and everybody, you know, knows this in Western press as well, that there is a huge amount of debate going on within the Obama regime. The military and the White House are not on the same page every time. The politicians are looking for different kind of objectives. The military’s looking for different kind of objectives. The danger of this is—and I feel that, you know, it is more probable, unfortunately—that America will become sick and tired of this situation, and before they go out, it seems like they will allow, you know, the military to get the hell out of there, but destroy whatever is left there, and Afghan people will suffer for that. It seems like this kind of end is in the coming, because even if Afghans want, you know, some kind of peaceful settlement, it doesn’t seem like its regional [inaudible] will, you know, let them reach that kind of settlement.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Muhammad.

JUNAID: Thank you very much.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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