Wash. Post: Discord at the ‘End of the Earth’

I had a short exchange with Ray Acheson and Bruce Gagnon today, regarding the Washington Post report that there is discord in Afghanistan (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Marine unit gone rogue, or leading the way?, Wash. Post, Mar. 14, 2010, at A1). I haven’t been following really the strategic elements of the Obama escalation, but this article suggests that operations in Delaram are “far from a strategic priority for senior officers at the international military headquarters in Kabul. One calls Delaram, a day’s drive from the nearest city, ‘the end of the Earth.’ Another deems the area ‘unrelated to our core mission’ of defeating the Taliban by protecting Afghans in their cities and towns.” However,

The Marines are constructing a vast base on the outskirts of town that will have two airstrips, an advanced combat hospital, a post office, a large convenience store and rows of housing trailers stretching as far as the eye can see. By this summer, more than 3,000 Marines — one-tenth of the additional troops authorized by President Obama in December — will be based here.”

All because it’s “essential to promoting economic development and defending the more populated parts of southern Afghanistan.” One could think of other reasons as well. In 2008, there was some lively discussion in the Canadian press because it was (still is?) where the Canadian military (“peacekeeping”) presence was situated (“painting schools and drilling wells” as the folklore goes) and it was questioned whether Canadian forces would in fact really be guarding parts of a proposed natural gas pipeline project. The Globe and Mail described the so-called Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) as a “$7.6-billion pipeline that would deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to energy-starved Pakistan and India” as “part of a wider struggle by the United States to counter the influence of Russia and Iran over energy trade in the region” in effect blocking “a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran.

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