Yet Another Imperialist Occupation of Afghanistan Ends in Disaster 145


Every single Imperial occupation of Afghanistan since Alexander the Great has had the same justification. They were all defensive invasions, necessary to reduce the “threat” from Afghanistan to the Imperial power. As those who have read my book Sikunder Burnes will know – and if you haven’t, you should – the first British occupation of 1839 was to topple a ruler viewed as potentially likely to ally with Russia and Persia in an invasion of British India. The second and third British invasions had the same justification. The Soviet invasion was to protect the Central Asian regions of the Soviet Union from infiltration by Islamic ideals. The American invasion was to stop more attacks like 9/11, as though there was something magic in the soil of Afghanistan that had prompted Osama Bin Laden and his small band of men, who had effectively left before the invasion was well established.

There is nothing unique about Afghanistan here. Almost every Empire in history has ostensibly pushed its borders ever outwards, in order to protect those borders from the barbarians the other side. It is the “defensive” logic behind the expansion of Empires. It is of course a lie, to justify looting, seizure of resources, rape and aggression. Most Empires as they developed added further justifications of high civilising mission, forcing the barbarians to be more like themselves. Education, sanitation – you know the playbook. That is why we are being bombarded with meaningless statistics about how many pupils are at school now in Afghanistan under American occupation. The statistics on opium and heroin production, which had been reduced to virtually zero under the Taliban and boomed to highest ever levels under US occupation, peculiarly do not figure in this narrative. The US occupation depended for its physical survival on supporting local warlords who were the heroin producers.

This was not an accident. I concur with this article that increasing heroin production was actually a goal of the United States as an agent of control in a country where the wholesale application of military force on the population has never worked. There is a great deal yet to be told about CIA involvement in Afghan heroin, and I expect we will learn more in fairly short time. I recount in Murder in Samarkand the heroin convoys being waved through on the Friendship Bridge en route to the Baltic ports, which could not have happened without the connivance of the Afghan, Uzbek and US governments. I also recount the death in an aircraft accident of my friend Richard Conroy of the United Nations whilst investigating this.

It is a further remarkable consistency of history that the British, Russian and American occupiers all sought to ally with the northern Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara tribes against predominantly Pashtun opposition. To the extent that the first puppet the Americans installed, President Karzai, was a member of precisely the same branch of the Dourani royal family as the puppet Shah Shuja that the British so spectacularly unsuccessfully installed in 1839. That is not to learn from history in the most plain fashion.

The primary true motive of the occupation of Afghanistan was originally the Trans Afghan Pipeline to take Central Asia’s massive supplies of natural gas – the gas reserves of Turkmenistan alone have a higher thermal value than the oil reserves of Iraq – down to Pakistan, India and onward via the Indian Ocean. This scheme was eventually stymied by Putin through his agent Alisher Usmanov and his aggressive Gazprom diplomacy in Central Asia. I was astonished to read that the pipeline project is not quite dead in this recent article, and that the Taliban has offered to guard it.

This was how the invasion of Afghanistan all started, with discussions by Enron and Unocal (board member George Bush sr.) with the Taliban on guarding the pipeline project, discussions in which Unocal was represented by its consultant, the future President Karzai. This paragraph from the article is a fair but sparse summary:

Global energy majors have latterly shown no enthusiasm for TAPI, but that was not always the way. In 1997, a consortium comprised of six companies and the government of Turkmenistan was formed with the goal of building a 1,271-kilometer pipeline to Pakistan. India was not yet part of the plan. The largest share in that consortium, 54 percent, was held by California-based Unocal Corporation. In 1997, the American company even arranged travel to Texas for a senior Taliban delegation for negotiations. Deadly terrorist attacks in 1998 against U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya organized by Al-Qaeda, whose leader Osama bin Laden had been provided safe haven by the Taliban, put paid to all that.

This misses some vital details, like the fact that Enron organised the meeting in Texas, and that it was held in the Governor’s mansion with George W Bush, at the time Governor of Texas. I suggest younger readers google Enron, which was one of the great financial scandals. Here is the full text of the key letter:

Kenneth L. Lay
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Enron Corp.
P.O. Box 1188
Houston, TX 77251-1188
713-853-6773
Fax 713-853-5313
April 3, 1997
Via Fax: 512/463-1849

The Honorable George W. Bush
Governor of the State of Texas
PO Box 12428
Austin, Texas

Dear George,
You will be meeting with Ambassador Sadyq Safaev, Uzbekistan’s
Ambassador to the United States, on April 8th. Ambassador Safaev has
been Foreign Minister and the senior advisor to President Karimov
before assuming his nation’s most significant foreign responsibility.
Enron has established an office in Tashkent and we are negotiating a $2
billion joint venture with Neftegas of Uzbekistan and Gazprom of Russia
to develop Uzbekistan’s natural gas and transport it to markets in
Europe, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. This project can bring significant
economic opportunities to Texas, as well as Uzbekistan. The political
benefits to the United States and to Uzbekistan are important to that
entire region.
Ambassador Safaev is one of the most effective of the Washington Corps
of Ambassadors, a man who has the attention of his president, and a
person who works daily to bring our countries together. For all these
reasons, I am delighted that the two of you are meeting.
I know you and Ambassador Safaev will have a productive meeting which
will result in a friendship between Texas and Uzbekistan.

Sincerely,
Ken
Natural gas. Electricity. Endless possibilities.

I want you to think about this. I published detailed information about the Bush family, the gas pipeline and American motives for maintaining the invasion of Afghanistan in Murder in Samarkand, along with information about the heroin trade, information I learnt first hand as British Ambassador in Uzbekistan. The book was a bestseller. I was invited to lecture at pretty well every major university you can mention worldwide, and at most of the big influential think tanks. Yet all this real story of the occupation of Afghanistan has virtually never been aired in the mainstream media, and these facts appear to be written out of history. They feature nowhere in the numerous discussions in the last 24 hours on the announcement of American withdrawal.

As a historian myself, I find the disconnect between the facts that really happened and what becomes the established narrative – and will be history – alarming. The extent to which we live in a propaganda construct in which received truth cannot always be trusted, is crystal clear to me now.

I very much hope that President Ghani and the Taliban will be able, without outside interference, to find a way to bring their devastated country together. I fear that the US, UK, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia and China will each continue to meddle in Afghan affairs in a way that will prove entirely debilitating. I had planned to journey to Kandahar in February to discuss the future with members of the Afghan community not aligned to the USA, whose view from the ground is almost never heard in the western world. I still intend to do that once Covid-19 restrictions allow.

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145 thoughts on “Yet Another Imperialist Occupation of Afghanistan Ends in Disaster

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  • Ethan Allen

    Timely, succinct, cogent, and extraordinary contribution to informed understanding!!!
    Thank you once again, Mr. Murray.
    As Usual,
    EA

  • TonyN

    IIRC Blair’s ‘job’ was to find alternative markets for the Afghan farmers, by e.g. flying early roses, etc. to London, in competition with Kenya. At the time there was a world shortage of morphine, and so the UK could have bought up the whole of the farm-gate output for peanuts, (and incidentally wrecked the supply-chain) and shipped it to the UK for processing.

    Didn’t happen, though. What was surprising was to see fields and fields of opium poppies springing up all over Dorset and the south east for a few years, presumably heavily subsidised ….. must have made our returning soldiers feel quite at home.

  • Johny Conspiranoid

    The imperialist occupation hasn’t actualy ended yet. The USA says it will leave in September but the Taliban says they have to be out in May or the shooting starts again. The Taliban have not indicated that they will change their mind. USA gets a base to cause trouble in central asia and a slice of the drug trade profits for its slush fund so there will be powerfull voices in Washington to say stay and keep controlling the bits they still control.

    ” The Soviet invasion was to protect the Central Asian regions of the Soviet Union from infiltration by Islamic ideals.”

    Weren’t the soviets invited in by the Afghan government to help fight American sponsored terrorists?

    ” The US occupation depended”.

    This should be ‘depends’ in the present tense.

    “Yet all this real story of the occupation of Afghanistan has virtually never been aired in the mainstream media, and these facts appear to be written out of history.”

    Journalism is the first draft of an agreed set of lies.

    “Russia and China will each continue to meddle in Afghan affairs in a way that will prove entirely debilitating.”

    What meddling are Russia and China doing?
    Most likely the USA will stay past the May deadline Trump agreed, the Taliban will resume operations, the US will say “we’re the victim, we were gonna leave in September” then the war can be ramped up and it will end in disaster for the USA.

  • Bramble

    “The extent to which we live in a propaganda construct in which received truth cannot always be trusted, is crystal clear to me now.”

    Indeed. Well said. And this is because most journalists have sold out. There are very few brave enough to point out:

    “the disconnect between the facts that really happened and what becomes the established narrative – and will be history.”

    Most journalists spend their time building and polishing up the established narrative – for example the ludicrous Skripal “story”, now treated by all journalists as The Truth.

    • Vivian O'Blivion

      “polishing up the established narrative”. Rolling the turd in glitter is perhaps more accurate.

    • Ralph

      journalists – or ‘presstitutes’ as PCR called them – work for the msm, which is controlled by you know who…consequently, they report what they are told to, no investigative journalism needed to actually print the truth. So yes, pure propaganda, aka LIES.
      (BTW, does everybody know that the ‘right-wing’ express is owned by the same owners of the ‘left-wing’ mirror?)

    • Bayard

      “the disconnect between the facts that really happened and what becomes the established narrative – and will be history.”

      ‘Twas ever thus: I inherited a contemporary picture showing a fairly obscure incident in Samoa in the late C19th. together with a typescript copy of a letter giving a first-hand account of what happened, by someone who was involved. A little research on the internet showed that the official account of the incident was quite at variance with the account in the letter.

  • CasualObserver

    So, twenty years, and billions of Dollars later, the Afghans will effectively be surrendered to the tender mercies of religious nuttery ?

    Of the billions that have been debited during the course of those 20 years, a fair slice has gone into the pockets of corrupt local potentates who were able to sing the tune the Yanks wanted to hear, and the bulk of the remainder has gone into the pockets of predominantly American contractors.

    One can but think that had substantial monies been spent in the hinterland of mudbrick compounds, on say giving the occupants easy access to the 21st century, then the soon to return scholars of the Taliban might well have faced resistance to their wish to restore medievalism.

    The Taliban will of course return portraying themselves as victors against the mighty west, and no doubt will invoke the concept of inshallah as proof of their righteousness. Bad luck for the Afghans who may have thrown their lot in with NATO hoping for their nation to be dragged into modern times, and a tragedy for the hundreds of servicemen who gave everything.

    • Giyane

      CasualObserver

      War costs money. There is no such thing as a spontaneous war , like the BBC myth about a civil war in Syria. The availability of weapons leads to war just as the availability of alcohol leads to drunkenness. We saw how the forces of evil, USUKIS , shipped weapons from Libya to Syria because the theft of Libya only took five minutes. Hillary Clinton then supplied concrete bunkers for Al Qaida which Putin destroyed with exocet missiles.

      In Afghanistan the forces of evil again supplied weapons but no bunkers. Afghanistan is full of wounded people, unable to earn a living. Only the forces of evil , USUKIS , can supply bombs and weapons, and they supply both sides. Here, take these and destroy yourselves, while we sit back and enjoy.

    • Tom Welsh

      I would think twice about offering Afghans “easy access to the 21st century”. From what I have seen of it so far, I would give a lot to escape from it.

  • joel

    The Taliban deserve respect for taking the best shots of the mightiest military in history – nonstop for two decades – and driving them out as losers, along with all their lickspittles. This latest defeat will have been noted by every state in the world unwilling to say ‘how high’? whenever Washington neocons say jump.

    • Bruce H

      You do know who the Taliban are and what they do, don’t you? I ask this because your post gives a different impression.

      • joel

        Dirt-poor farmers in sandals essentially. Do you know what the US army, airforce and UAVs are?

  • Christopher Barclay

    ” … meaningless statistics about how many pupils are at school now in Afghanistan under American occupation …”

    Meaningless because the statistics are inaccurate or meaningless because education is unimportant?

    • vin_ot

      The circus moved on from Afghan schoolgirls a long time ago.

      The Muslims we care about today are in Xinjiang province, where apparently there is a holocaust going on. (Copyright Adrian Zenz)

      • Bruce H

        “We” care about “muslims” when “we” see an interest for “us”.and if this requires a few lies, no matter, it sells papers too.

  • Republicofscotland

    Good and informative article Craig, didn’t the Great Satan, the US, flood Vietnam and the surrounding countries such as Laos with heroin during the Vietnam war to try and weaken the Vietnamese people and their allies in nearby countries.

    As for Afghanistan, the Great Satan would also have had its eye, well its corporate buddies,( such as Halliburton) on the rare earth elements in the country. Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium.

    • Giyane

      Republic of Scotland

      There is zero chance that the Taliban will allow USUKIS corporations to lease the rights to Afghan minerals.
      Not only are Russia and China much nearer and more influential , but the Taliban will never allow themselves to be the fully owned slaves of the crusaders like Barzani and Erdogan.

      Trump had no time for war as a method of commercial exploitation, because the cost of helping people,, as China has in Africa, is less than the cost of military destruction, as USUKIS has done in Syria, Libya and Iraq.

      Anglo-Saxon pseudo- religious aggression, in its latest reincarnation of US hegemony, doesn’t work.
      Unfortunately , or fortunately , it has taken the sheer stubbornness and willingness to sacrifice human life of the Taliban, to teach the Empire 3 merchants a lesson.

      We are so tired of the moral.outrage of the woke USUKIS, that Gadafi was using viagra as s weapon of war, or the White Helmets in Syria. Or even a First Minister nearly bounced a women’s curls in a lift in public. Give over. Give us a break from this childish self- victiming.

      It’s simple. All of the countries that USUKIS thinks it has gained in the last 40 years, from Yugoslavia to Yemen, with its bent courts if justice and its bent MSM, they will lose them all. The US UK and Israel are all internally divided between those who want and those who do not want aggression. Corbyn is right. Aggression achieves nothing.

      The West projects its own disease of criminal colonial terrorism onto the Taliban. Some of the people some of the time listen. But it’s not the way to do business.
      Ask a businessman.

      • Republicofscotland

        Giyane.

        I’m pretty sure its already happened when the US puppet Mohammed Karzai was the president of Afghanistan

  • Stevie Boy

    This from the grayzone.

    “Over 18,000 Pentagon contractors remain in Afghanistan, while official troops number 2,500. Joe Biden will withdraw this smaller group of soldiers while leaving behind US Special Forces, mercenaries, and intelligence operatives — privatizing and downscaling the war, but not ending it.”

    https://thegrayzone.com/2021/04/16/biden-afghanistan-war-privatizing-contractors/
    So ‘sleepy Joe’ has managed to fool some of the people, some of the time …

    • pretzelattack

      yep, meanwhile sanctioning russia with the other hand, over nonexistent election interference.

  • Tom Welsh

    Any US personnel or “assets” left in Afghanistan when the formal armed forces leave will have the status of terrorists or criminals. As such, the Afghan government – or any concerned citizens – will have the right to detain them for trial – and, if they resist, to destroy them.

    If Washington complains, Kabul should ask them, “Are you claiming responsibility for those people? Yes or no”.

    If “no”, they have no standing to protest. if “yes”, they are admitting to sponsorship of terrorism.

  • Deb O'Nair

    “The American invasion was to stop more attacks like 9/11”

    That was the stated reason, the real reason the US went to Afghanistan was to head-off the rise of China after the collapse of the Soviet Union, this was spelled out explicitly in the 1990’s by the necons through the Project for an American Century (PNAC). The PNAC plan is the blueprint for the War on Terror.

    https://www.newstatesman.com/node/192545

    • Ralph

      In Jan 1998, neocons, including zalmay khalilzad, dumbsfeld, wolfowitz, kagan etc, wanted clinton to invade Iraq: ‘above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power’. They needed a new ‘Pearl Harbor’ type event.

      911 was it.

      Iraqi WMDs was proven as utter BS, and also bin laden as the perp is WRONG, even the fbi officially admitted (implicitly) that they did NOT want bin laden for 911 (see their ‘most Wanted’ list, archived).

      Here is some background info on Afghanistan and a pipeline:
      http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa48119.000/hfa48119_0.HTM

  • pretzelattack

    i have no objection to the assertion that this occupation will end in disaster, it’s just that i won’t be fully confident it has ended until the u.s. actually pulls out. there’s another storm of fake intel on russia interfering with the effing 2016 election, and that is going to be used in conjunction with the fake taliban bounty story to justify staying. the warmongers have a lot of power and influence, and it’s all directed at keeping the u.s. in afghanistan. they’ll fight leaving the way amazon fights efforts to unionize.

  • Heartsupwards

    Relying on memory here but once the US lost the pipeline contract with the Taliban was it not then given to an Argentinian company only for the Argentine economy to soon collapse?

  • Riuch

    It has not ended. America does not leave. It has more to steal and needs the drug money to fund black book operations. Plus likes to be near Russia to cause problems. A deadly parasite if not removed early on.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    I think a cursory examination of the true facts of 9/11 show that Osama bin Laden was not responsible for organising it, so the reason to invade Afghanistan simply did not exist. That meant that the USA wanted to invade Afghanistan and they needed a pretext to do it.

    It was also entirely clear that Saddam Hussein had zero alliances with Osama bin Laden and also had nothing to do with 9/11, so the invasion of Iraq was also based on made-up pretexts.

    My experience of common humanity is that they tend to know what’s what, but reflect on the fact that they can’t stop it happening, nor can they easily change it. Most of them are too busy trying to keep their finances afloat to dedicate the time and resources required to co-ordinate change, so they tend to be wizened old cynics.

    As a result, my starting point is that Afghani people probably know the score about their nation, the interminable numbers of invasions by foreign powers, far better than we do. They probably understand who the local mafia godfathers are pretty well and steer clear of them as much as is feasible. They probably have an attitude that until the world lets them earn a living growing/selling things other than poppies, then growing poppies is one of those evils that have to be lived with.

    I am sure that Mr Murray understands Afghan inter-tribal bickering rather better than many in the UK, as he is so invested in intra-UK tribal bickering between the Scots and the English. It is of course noteworthy that extremely rarely has the UK had a Welsh Prime Minister and as far as I am aware, never has it had a Northern Irish Prime Minister. Scotland appears to fared little better.

    Here’s a list of constituencies recent PMs have represented:

    Johnson – Uxbridge and South Ruislip (aka London);
    May – Maidenhead (Berkshire);
    Cameron – Witney (Oxfordshire);
    Brown – somewhere in Fife (Scotland);
    Blair – Sedgefield (North East) (but the family grew up in London and children went to posh London schools);
    Major – Huntingdon (Cambridgeshire);
    Thatcher – Finchley (London);
    Callaghan – Cardiff (Wales);
    Wilson – Huddersfield (Yorkshire);
    Heath – Bexley (London);
    Home – no-one (inter-regnum from the House of Lords);
    McMillan – Bromley (London) – he did represent Stockton on Tees as a young MP;
    Eden – Warwick and Leamington (Warwickshire);
    Churchill – Woodford (London) – also represented Epping, Manchester NW, Oldham and Dundee;
    Attlee – Limehouse (London).

    So since the war, there has been a great preponderance of those representing London/SE constituencies becoming Prime Minister, which does suggest that UK politics has learned equally little from previous failures when thinking about appropriate national leadership of a purportedly United Kingdom of four regionally distinct entities….

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