There is a high probability that US sanctions against Iran have been violated by its own army. Part of the $1.55 billion in fuel the US bought from Turkmenistan for the Afghan army in the last five years may have originated in Iran.
A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) suggested that “despite actions taken by DOD to prevent the purchase of Iranian fuel with US funds, risks remain that US economic sanctions could [have been] violated” from 2007 to 2012.
Most of the fuel for domestic Afghan consumption comes from neighboring Iran. Because of the US sanctions on Tehran restricting the trade of Iranian oil and petroleum products, the ISAF has been required to abide by the regulations and buy petrol from eight Afghan-owned companies that deliver petroleum from Turkmenistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan.
The SIGAR report also acknowledged there are no plausible oversight mechanisms to make sure Iranian petroleum products are not included in future fuel purchases.
Turkmenistan is a major regional oil producer, which also trades for petroleum products made in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Iran. Petrol vendors in Turkmenistan use flexible supply schemes, meaning that fuel of various origins could potentially be blended together.
In response to a draft of SIGAR report, the US Embassy in Kabul stated that “it is possible that if blending is taking place in Turkmenistan it could contain some Iranian fuel,” but refused to admit that fuel imported from Russia could also be blended with Iranian fuel prior to its import into Afghanistan.
“All fuel imports carry a ‘verified Fuel Passport’ from the refinery, which provides information on the origin, quantity, quality, and specifications of the fuel,” the embassy explained.
“Suppliers are unlikely to blend Iranian fuel, or any other product, with other sourced fuel because of the potential that blending could cause product deviation from specification standards and potentially cause a rejection of the entire shipment,” the embassy said.
In 2012, the Pentagon reportedly spent over $800 million on imports from Turkmenistan, most likely for fuel purchases.
There’s got to be some symbolism—if not irony–in the fact that just as the last of the 33,000 troops surged by Obama two years ago supposedly to pacify Afghanistan pulled out, the highest ranking Chinese official to visit Afghanistan in almost half a century pulled in—arriving in Kabul for a secret round of meetings with top Afghan officials.
Question: How will China deal with the country that proved such an expensive and bloody disaster for both the U.S., its NATO allies–and the U.S.S.R before them?
In a brief visit, unreported until he had left Kabul, Zhou Younkang, China’s chief of domestic security, met with Afghani leaders, including President Hamid Karzai. They talked about drugs, international crime, terrorism, and developing Afghanistan’s huge natural resources—just as visiting Americans have done for years.
The result, a cluster of agreements, among them an announcement that 300 Afghan police officers will be sent to China for training over the next four years.
Which is another irony of sorts—coming at the same time as news that the U.S. and its allies have been obliged to scale back joint operations with the Afghan military and police, because they can no longer trust the men they’ve trained. American troops in the field with their Afghan allies now keep weapons ready and wear body armor even when they’re eating goat meat and yoghurt.
So far this year 51 American and NATO troops have been gunned down by Afghan military or police: a startling 20% of all NATO casualties this year.
The off-the-wall video from California ridiculing the prophet Mohammed has only further fueled anti-American hatred.
As the New York Times quoted one 20 year old Afghan soldier, NATO casualties could even be higher.
“We would have killed many of them already,” he said, “but our commanders are cowards and don’t let us.”
There are still some 68,000 American troops based in Afghanistan, but the plans are for them all to be out by the end of 2014. Which means that China will be confronting serious security problems of its own in Afghanistan. They already have direct investments of more than $200 million in copper mining and oil exploration, and have promised to build a major railroad east to Pakistan or north to Turkestan.
But they could pour in billions more if Afghanistan were a secure, well-ordered country, free from the Taliban, free from kleptocratic war lords and venal government bureaucrats, patrolled by well-trained Afghan soldiers and police: in other words, exactly the kind of country the U.S. would like to have left behind—and didn’t.
Instead, of course, despite America’s huge sacrifice in men and treasure –more than half a trillion dollars since 2001–things haven’t worked out that way. [For a dramatic, running count of the enormous hemorrhage that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still represent to the U.S. economy check out costofwar.com.]
Meanwhile, corruption is rampant, and it’s by no means certain that Afghanistan has—or ever will have–a national army and police force worthy of the name.
The U.S. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, peered into the Pentagon’ s 1.1 billion dollars fuel program to supply the Afghan Army, and concluded that there was no way to be ascertain how much if any of that fuel is really being used by Afghan security forces for their missions. There was also no way to know how much was stolen, lost or diverted to the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Almost half a billion dollars worth of receipts detailing with fuel payments over the past four years have been shredded.
With the Americans heading for the exits, the challenge facing the Chinese—and anyone else, like India–interested in investing in the country–is how to navigate this imbroglio.
Indeed, the Chinese have apparently already run into problems in Afghanistan. Work at the Mes Aynak copper mine in Logar Province is already behind schedule, and no work has begun on the promised Chinese-built railroad yet. Various impediments have turned up, like recalcitrant bureaucrats, tensions provoked by the need to displace local populations, the discovery of Buddhist ruins, as well as ramshackle Soviet-era mines that first had to be cleared.
And then there’s the rival, rapacious warlords, who see the country’s resources as a way of fueling their own ambitions—like General Abdul Rashid Dotsum, who the government has accused of attempting to extort illegal payoffs from the Chinese oil company.
However, in their dealings throughout the developing world, from despots to democracies, the Chinese have shown themselves adept at navigating such quagmires. There’s no talk from Beijing of Chinese “exceptionalism”. They’ve been taking on the world as it is—not as someone in a Chinese think tank would want to remake it.
They’ve generally turned a blind eye to considerations of human rights, opted to pay off or work with the powers that be, and used offers of huge new infrastructure projects as bait, steadily increasing their share of the globe’s resources.
Many potential investors still shy away from Afghanistan. They have no idea what lies on the other side of the political abyss after 2014 when the U.S. completes its withdrawal.
China is also wary, but they’re also seriously planning their Afghan strategy for the post-American future.
As Wang Lian, a professor with the School of International Studies at the Paking University in Beijing, put it, ”Almost every great power in history, when they were rising, was deeply involved in Afghanistan, and China will not be an exception.”
Unmentioned, of course, was what an unmitigated disaster that involvement turned out to be for the USSR, the US–and Afghanistan.
We’ll see how China fares.
- Did Afghanistan’s Surge Fail? (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Is the Afghan Surge Really Over? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Afghanistan surge achieved its mission, Dempsey says (nation.com.pk)
The United States has stopped training Afghan forces due to rising incidents of the so-called insider attacks in Afghanistan.
The Washington Post reports that the commander of the US Special Forces has suspended training for all new Afghan recruits until Afghan soldiers are re-investigated for their possible ties to Taliban militants.
The US daily says the re-vetting process will affect more than 27,000 Afghan troops.
“We have a very good vetting process,” the paper quotes an unnamed senior special operations official as saying.
“What we learned is that you just can’t take it for granted. We probably should have had a mechanism to follow up with recruits from the beginning.”
Recently, the insider attacks by Afghan soldiers on US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan have increased.
Afghan forces have killed at least 45 foreign forces, mostly US soldiers, in such attacks so far in 2012.
On August 29, an Afghan soldier opened fire on a group of Australian troops in the southern district of Tarin Kowt, killing three of them.
Earlier in August, six US soldiers were killed in a series of such attacks in a single day.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has expressed deep concern about the rise in the insider attacks.
On Sunday, as reported by Reuters, a senior US logistics commander in charge of transferring excess non-military equipment to Afghan forces Brigadier-General Steven Shapiro rejected accusations from front line combat troops that the complicated rollback from bases across Afghanistan was disrupting NATO-led operations against insurgents.
He said that around 400 bases had been already successfully closed or handed to Afghan security forces from a high of around 800 last October as part of a withdrawal of foreign troops from combat operations winding up in 2014.
The story goes on to say that the pullout of more than $60 billion worth of war-fighting equipment from Afghanistan is expected to be one of the most complicated logistical exercises in recent history, much more difficult than the pullout from Iraq.
By September the US administration is planning to cut the number of the US troops by 28,000 servicemen, which is regarded as a major PR action ahead of November presidential elections.
All this hardly makes the US servicemen remaining in Afghanistan too happy.
“It’s a nightmare. We barely have enough guys to cover our area, let alone get ready to pack up,” a US officer recently told Reuters in volatile eastern Kunar province.
Indeed, the whole situation poses too many questions, for most of which there are no ready answers.
First, the only visible result of the already started pullout process is the increasing number of defections among Afghan military and security force, and correspondingly – a growing number of insider (so called “green-on-blue”) attacks by people clad in Afghan uniform on NATO soldiers.
The diminishing number of Western troops is likely to encourage Afghans trained and equipped by their mentors to turn the arms, even more frequently, against their former patrons.
Second, all military – combat and non-combat – equipment has been accumulated in Afghanistan for more than two years. Now the task is to withdraw it in less than two years. The task itself seems unrealistic, especially with the strained relationship between the US and Pakistan – the only country capable of providing the shortest way for the pullout.
Despite the fact that recently Pakistan agreed to reopen the southern supply route for NATO forces in Afghanistan, even the present Pakistani leadership is under constant pressure from the society and political parties in order to reassess the relationship with the US. And taking into consideration that no later than 2013 the current leadership is more than likely to lose power, the prospects for a much more anti-American forces leadership to prevail is more than real. This will definitely pose additional difficulties for the NATO command.
This leaves few options open. One of them is using the northern route via Central Asia and Russia, which is much more expensive and not likely to make most of the transit countries happy. The other implies leaving most of the equipment at the Afghans’ disposal. But this variant is fraught with the risks that the equipment and arms will be used by those very forces the US is taking so much pain to fight.
Taking all these factors into consideration, one may easily come to a conclusion that whatever is explicitly said about the US plans concerning Afghanistan hardly reflects the truth.
And the truth is that the 400 bases allegedly “closed or handed to Afghan security forces” are small combat outposts and observation positions of minor importance. The big ones, like Shindand air base in Herat province (in close vicinity to Iran), or Kandahar and Bagram air bases remain basically untouched. And there is all reason to believe that the highly publicized pullout does not concern these major installations which play a crucial role in the US strategy of establishing its dominance in the “Greater Middle East” enabling American military to control a vast territory far beyond Afghanistan.
This also explains why both contenders in the US presidential race keep mum on the issue of Afghanistan. In reality, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is going to fulfill Obama’s imprudent promise to withdraw from Afghanistan. However unpopular the war might be, the role of the global gendarme is much more important than the public opinion.
- independent- Two US troops killed by rogue Afghan soldier (independent.ie)