Military Review

Unpredictable fragments of the empire

What is at stake a new "big game" around Afghanistan

The question of what will happen in the territory of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of American troops, as this time approaches, is becoming increasingly important for the northern neighbors of Kabul, about which the author has already written on the pages of the Military-Industrial Courier.

It should be noted that any publications devoted to the current situation in the post-Soviet space, as a rule, cause an ambiguous reaction in the countries in question, provoking the appearance of “answers” ​​by local authors, which are usually based on conspiracy theory based on suspicions about Russia, with hints of Moscow’s desire to intervene in the internal affairs of a particular republic. Leaving aside the discussion, the whole complex of causes and effects of a policy of this kind, implicated in the conviction of local elites that Russia wants the restoration of the Soviet Union and the only thing that prevents it from re-adopting the position of “elder brother” in Central Asia and Transcaucasia is the US influence, EU and China.

Laughing gas

Note that avoiding this mythical threat, the leaders of the countries in question are in a much more dangerous position than they see it. And the real problems they have are not in the north, but in the south. And reliance on Beijing, Brussels and Washington in the event of their escalation is unlikely to help.

The demonstrative refusal of Ashgabat to participate in any integration projects in the post-Soviet space, as well as the dual position of Tashkent changing in accordance with this or that balance of power in the region, does not help them defend their independence more than threaten it. However, until external factors have become catastrophic, the situation will not change. The symbol of “independence” from Russia, which has become the ideal of local authorities, is their choice of routes for exporting hydrocarbons. It is not by chance that in Turkmenistan the professional holiday of the oil and gas industry workers was postponed to the day of the launch of the first stage of the gas pipeline to China.

Ashgabat's fears are exclusively historical the basis, however, is understandable from a pragmatic point of view: Turkmenistan is in the first four countries of the world in terms of natural gas reserves (after Russia, Iran and Qatar). Currently, its export is carried out only to Russia, China and Iran. However, Ashkhabad hopes that the EU-promoted Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TGG) project, which is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, will connect the Turkmen and Azerbaijani shores of the Caspian, allowing gas to be exported through Azerbaijan and Turkey to EU countries.

That is why Ashgabat insists on its right to lay a pipeline across the Caspian Sea on the basis of bilateral agreements without taking into account the opinions of all the Caspian states. This was stated by President G. Berdymukhammedov at the Astrakhan Summit of the five Caspian littoral states. Initiatives regarding the convention on international guarantees of cross-border pipelines and energy security are also aimed at maintaining the most favored treatment of the TAG. This project in the government of Turkmenistan is led by B. Khojamuhammedov - Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the fuel and energy complex. The priority tasks of the oil and gas complex, set by President Berdymukhammedov, are the start of construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in 2015, and the completion of the East-West gas pipeline from Galkynysh to the Caspian in 2016 (which will allow gas fields to countries in a single gas transmission system) and the construction of the fourth branch (branch D) of the gas pipeline Turkmenistan - China. At the same time, the military-political situation in Afghanistan rules out the possibility of building TAPI in practice.

Beijing, which not only built pipelines from Turkmenistan at its own expense, but also allocated money to the country to develop fields and a large number of loans for other purposes, has set a relatively low price for gas and does not issue new loans to Ashgabat. As a result, the gas "independence" of Turkmenistan from Russia led to its complete dependence on China. It should be noted that before the historic visit of President Putin to Beijing, when the Russian-Chinese agreement on gas supplies was signed, President Berdymukhammedov traveled to China. They discussed the possibility of providing loans for the supply or increase the purchase price. Both requests were denied.

Price of independence

Smaller than it was planned, financial revenues from exports to China, Iran’s payment in recent years of gas supplies by commodity barter (mainly building materials), as well as the insignificant volume of pumping to Russia caused a shortage of currency in Turkmenistan. This complicated the plans of the authorities, including large-scale projects, including international commitments (the Asian Games will be held in Ashgabat in 2017, for which infrastructure facilities are being built). According to experts, the country's leadership discussed the abolition of the conversion of manat, for which all documents were prepared. We are not talking about a financial crisis yet, but without any breakthrough in gas exports, it may well occur. TAPI or TCG could strengthen the position of Turkmenistan in negotiations with both the PRC and the EU.

Unpredictable fragments of the empire

Sources claim that Iran will soon abandon Turkmen gas. He bought gas for the north of the country, mainly for private households. Now the Iranians have increased gas production, pulled up pipes from the south and switched to their own sources. Since the UN sanctions against Iran are currently being lifted, Iranian gas, on which the Western community relies on Russian supplies, can go to Europe, including as an alternative to Turkmen. What makes Tehran a direct competitor to Ashgabat. The situation with the Chinese market is similar.

At one time, during the visit to Turkmenistan, the then Iranian President M. Ahmadinejad announced at a meeting with G. Berdymukhammedov the possibility that Beijing and Tehran would turn to Ashgabat for permission to lay a pipeline from Iran to China through Turkmenistan, which is the only land corridor between Iran and China not controlled by the United States. The leadership of Turkmenistan has perceived even the hypothetical possibility of this kind of purely negative.

As for Russia, it minimizes the volume of gas purchased in Turkmenistan in 2015 due to a fall in demand in Europe with significant volumes of its own production level. Now Gazprom supplies Turkmenistan with 10 – 12 billion cubic meters, but in the spring Russia may well begin to cut purchases, up to complete abandonment of them. In the balance of monopoly on 2015, the Turkmen and Uzbek gas is still in place, but experts have already made the decision to abandon purchases if there is no price reduction. It was due to the fact that Turkmen fuel costs Russia in 360 – 380 dollars per thousand cubic meters. In 2005 – 2006, when Gazprom bought free gas on the world market by torpedoing the Nabucco project, these prices at the European level were fixed. However, the contract for the sale of fuel is consistent every quarter and without providing Russia with reasonable discounts from Turkmenistan, which correspond to the real situation on the market, the latter can lose it as a partner. In principle, both parties could only win if Ashgabat became a strategic partner of Moscow in the South Stream. In this case, Gazprom would automatically withdraw from the Third Energy Package of the EU, and Turkmenistan would gain access to the European market through Russia. However, neither Moscow nor Ashgabat is yet satisfied with it: the first is not ready for a partnership without discounts, the second does not want to provide them.

The fact that the PRC may well become a monopoly buyer of Turkmen gas in the short term is negatively regarded by Ashgabat - China has shown itself as a tough negotiator and an even more uncompromising partner than Russia. Accordingly, the European gas transportation route and designed to ensure the supply of the CGT is the basis of the current gas transmission strategy of Turkmenistan. Moreover, the Ukrainian crisis contributes to the maximum attention of the European Union to this project. Although the government of Turkmenistan is considering other options, for example, the development of a transport corridor to the south.

Dream bay

The agreement to create this corridor of the government of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Oman and Qatar was signed in April 2011. In 2013, Qatar left the project. Part of the transport and transit corridor will go by rail linking Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran, the other part - by sea from the Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chakhbakhar to the ports of Oman. In August, in the capital of Oman, Muscat, 2014, the foreign ministers of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Oman signed a memorandum of understanding on the entry into force of the agreement on the creation of a transport corridor. The project should give impetus to the economic development of the participating countries, the creation of jobs, the construction of social and industrial infrastructure, as well as attract large foreign investments.

In development of this project, the President of Uzbekistan I. Karimov approved a memorandum of understanding with Turkmenistan on the implementation of the agreement on the establishment of the Central Asia - Persian Gulf transport corridor. At his suggestion, the relevant agreement was called the Ashgabat Agreement. I. Karimov instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan to send a notification to the depositary about the country's implementation of the internal procedures necessary for its entry into force. At the same time, we are talking about cargo transit, and not about supplies of Central Asian natural gas to the south, and it is doubtful whether they are possible in principle. Neither Iran, through whose territory there is transit, nor who left the project, but remains an important regional player, Qatar, does not need such supplies in the slightest.

At the same time, the increasing coordination of actions between Ashgabat and Tashkent is largely connected not so much with strategic bilateral and multilateral projects in the economic sphere, as with the current situation in Afghanistan. It is with her that observers link the extraordinary October visit of the Uzbek President to Turkmenistan. In fact, we are talking about, at least from the Uzbek side, the formation of a coalition that could really counter the threat from the territory of Afghanistan. It is possible that it will be created with the participation of Iran and Russia, as well as other regional players.

Water is a big question

In addition to purely military affairs, experts believe, the water issue, more precisely, the problem of the Amu Darya, may now be exacerbated. During Soviet times, there was a treaty in accordance with which its stock was distributed between Moscow and Kabul. Then, water projects (as well as infrastructure projects in general) became irrelevant for Afghanistan. After the entry of the troops of the Western coalition, led by the Americans, a grandiose plan appeared to build canals that would irrigate the vast territories of the Afghan left bank of the Amu Darya. Japan at the beginning of the 2000-s paid for the feasibility study of this project, including through the UN. However, after the Islamists were taken hostage by Japanese specialists, funding was discontinued.

In 2012, it became known that funds from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were ready to allocate money for the development of this territory along the Amu Darya, including reclamation work: laying of canals, land leveling, and purchasing equipment. Both in 2002 and at present, the Afghan authorities are proposing that their neighbors conclude a new agreement on the division of the waters of the Amu Darya. At the same time, the soil there is one of the best in Central Asia, and you can irrigate almost the entire Afghan part of the so-called Obruchev steppe: the zone of the “blind” river deltas - from Kunduz to Andkhoy. On the territory of Turkmenistan it is bounded from the north by the channel of the Amudarya. Moreover, the development of land from the Afghan side is likely to begin in any case, with an agreement on the section of flow or without.

Downstream of the Amu Darya, water is critically inadequate, which is manifested in the problem of the Aral Sea, the Uzbek part of which (the Southern or the Large Aral) rapidly dries up even without Kabul claiming a substantial share of the flow. As far as can be judged, we are talking about the creation of a serious food base on the territory of Afghanistan. The Arabs simply changed the Japanese and Americans in this matter. In Kyrgyzstan, and especially actively in Tajikistan, Turkish, and in the past two years, Qatari investment funds have been investing in agricultural production on the basis of serious state guarantees to protect these investments.

It is noted that Dragon Oil, a company registered in Ireland, which is owned by a UAE fund, started drilling for gas and oil in the Mazar-i-Sharif area and to the west on the Turkmen border, receiving a license from the Afghan authorities in 2013. Reserves are small there, the market is local. However, for the development of the territory in this area its own energy base is necessary - it is she who is currently preparing. For whom exactly is the question. Judging by the escalation of the situation in northern Afghanistan, an answer to it can be obtained in the near future.

Who benefits southern vulnerability

Today, the Taliban have reached almost to Kunduz. There are constant clashes with them, the militants carry out massive infiltration into the oasis. To the west, in Mazar-i-Sharif, US Army units are being replaced by special forces, which should be permanently stationed at the military base, but this process is far from complete. From Kunduz to Balkh - within reach. On the contrary, Termez, however, it is strengthened and Uzbek forces are being held there. In addition, the Amu Darya is a serious obstacle and the Uzbek part of the border is small. Significantly, if the militants reach Kunduz from Balkh, the north of Afghanistan will be completely cut off from the rest of the country - they will unite with the forces that they have in Faryab. According to estimates by the Afghan authorities, the number of militants in Faryab reaches two thousand. Events there are developing much faster than expected.

The leadership of Uzbekistan and law enforcement agencies demonstrate their determination to fight with any adversary who tries to attack the republic. In Turkmenistan, the situation is not perceived as alarming. Its border is being strengthened, retraining of personnel and gatherings of reservists are being held, but top management does not have the practical experience of conducting military operations against the Islamists, which Tashkent has. At the time of the Turkmenbashi, the Afghan-Turkmen border was the most peaceful, S. Niyazov de facto concluded a non-aggression pact with the Taliban. It is possible that his successor relies on the same scenario, which is now practically excluded.

In the future, the Islamists are preparing to seize a bridgehead outside Afghanistan. As a rule, a discussion of the direction of a possible strike by Russian experts comes down to estimates concerning the Fergana Valley. At the same time, one should not forget about Surkhandarya, a large agrarian array in Uzbekistan on the border with Afghanistan, which has direct access to the capital of Tajikistan - Dushanbe. Surkhandarya region is isolated from the rest of Uzbekistan. Many ethnic Tajiks live there, there is an intensive infiltration from the south to the areas inhabited by them, and in both directions - directly to Uzbekistan or through Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In this regard, during the top-level talks, Tashkent’s security agencies asked Ashgabat to order strengthening the section of the Turkmen-Uzbek border, from Afghan territory inland to Karshi, and to strengthen patrols (agreement in principle was obtained).

As for the battles in Afghanistan, in the province of Sari-Pul, from there it is easy to develop an offensive to the north, in Jowzdzhan, and in the Shibargan area, cut off the A76 highway (aka AN-76). This road is a continuation of the route going through Herat - Andkhoi along the border with Turkmenistan through the vilayets of Herat, Bagdis, Faryab, Jowzjan, Balkh (to the cities of Balkh and Mazar-i-Sharif). If it turns out to be cut in the Shibargan area, not far from the place of the current battles, the strategic route connecting Andkhoy with the territory of Turkmenistan through Imam-Mazar will be cut. Thus, the north is cut off from other areas of Afghanistan. If such plans of the militants, whose offensive is called “Khaybar”, are implemented, another cross-border project will stop: the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway. China needs it, but so far everything is limited to design work.

It should be noted that due to the danger for schoolchildren who in Afghanistan, as in Nigeria for Boko-Haram, are the target of Islamist attacks, the authorities closed most of the schools in the districts of Adring, Laghman, Kalai-Sokhta and Alaf Safid. Almost the entire Dashti Archi district, in 177 kilometers from the Farkhor district of Tajikistan, is under the control of the militants. Heavy fighting with them go to Chordar and Khanabad. The disturbing situation in the neighboring Imam Sahib. Local residents say that among the militants trained in Pakistan, there are people from Chechnya, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. And this once again raises the question of the influence on the situation in the Afghan-Pakistani frontier of Islamabad, as well as the role of the Islamic state in everything that happens.

The point here is not that the Islamists have a center that manages military operations and terrorist acts in the space from Pakistan to Nigeria and from Somalia to Turkey. And not that the United States, Britain, Qatar or Saudi Arabia directly manage the military-terrorist network created by them. But - about the connection of international terrorism with the routes of oil and gas supplies. What was called a century ago, "Big Game".

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  1. Samaritan
    Samaritan 6 November 2014 18: 51
    The Americans will give ISIS keys and point to Moscow! It is necessary to transfer military operations to the territory of the USA! Then the war will end!
    1. MIV999
      MIV999 6 November 2014 18: 54
      It is necessary to transfer military operations to the territory of the USA! Then the war will end!

      Well, you and a dreamer, dear drinks ... But why not dream? wink ... Then it’s small ... It remains only to agree with Mexico, Canada, Argentina and Brazil ...
      To at least not intervene soldier
      1. zeleznijdorojnik
        zeleznijdorojnik 6 November 2014 19: 47
        When the Taliban are trampled into Turkmenistan, it is necessary to negotiate with the Chinese and send troops into the former Soviet Central Asian republics - firstly, geopolitics, secondly, the old people still remember the Russians, and all young people here work for us - there’s some kind of civil war and partisanism from outside there will be no simple people, but Basmachism can be raised.
      2. The comment was deleted.
      3. siberalt
        siberalt 6 November 2014 23: 10
        Somehow Canada is not in a row. laughing French colony under the control of the English Queen of Ukazin. what
    2. Giant thought
      Giant thought 6 November 2014 19: 15
      Turkmenistan is the least protected country in the region, it will become the first victim of the Islamic State.
      1. Lelek
        Lelek 6 November 2014 23: 34
        Quote: Thought Giant
        Turkmenistan is the least protected country in the region, it will become the first victim of the Islamic State.

        And the head of the Turkmen bash will be the first to decorate the picket fence in the central square of the capital. Or does he hope that polite Russians come and protect his khanate from barbarians? fool
    3. Revolver
      Revolver 6 November 2014 21: 31
      Quote: Samaritan
      It is necessary to transfer military operations to the territory of the USA! Then the war will end!

      Will not end. As Einstein said, "I don't know what kind of weapon the Third World War will be fought with, but the Fourth will use sticks and stones." Do you really want this? Well, a stick in your hands, but rather kill yourself against the wall.
      1. user
        user 7 November 2014 09: 52
        Well, stick in your hands, and better kill yourself against the wall.

        This is your ambition because you are fighting overseas with the Papuans, and as soon as "serious boys" appear at the border, the tone will change and the awareness of danger comes, which will immediately affect speech and even more so on comments.
  2. MIV999
    MIV999 6 November 2014 18: 51
    The East is not only a delicate matter ... But also a dark matter ... No one knows where the crescent curve will take request... You can try on as many options as you wish - East and East therefore hi that it turns out all the same the option that was not even discussed yes
  3. Ignatius
    Ignatius 6 November 2014 19: 01
    Yeah, restless in our Asian underbelly ...
  4. parafoiler
    parafoiler 6 November 2014 19: 14
    Americans need to cut off their hands and nose, so that they wouldn’t pop them where these shrimp creatures should not go.
  5. Sasha75
    Sasha75 6 November 2014 19: 39
    An interesting article I learned a lot about gas deliveries before, I didn’t know, and that we are also selling to China at a price that isn’t the same as the fact that Gazprom really has Europe buying up all the gas contracts in the bud.
  6. vigor1288
    vigor1288 6 November 2014 19: 40
    Afghan has been a stumbling block for centuries, and most likely it will. There have been so many attempts to convert all and sundry into true "faith". This piece of land stands at the crossroads of all trade routes, it is assumed that who is the boss there is the master of Europe and Asia. This is all part of the great game played by Britain during colonization.
    1. lichide
      lichide 6 November 2014 20: 26
      Afghans and Russians are two great rebellious and wayward peoples! There are also Irish people, stubborn to the limit. Also the Slavic shelter wanders! These peoples are the ones who infuriate the English crown.
    2. Kasym
      Kasym 6 November 2014 20: 29
      Let it be to you. It’s just Asia. And the mentality here is different. Nomads killed a couple of nearby local villages during the first attack. And they warned that in the following cases the same thing would happen to those closest to us. points (attackers are mostly local). That’s all.
      Under the USSR, it was unlikely that they would have done without Western help; the injection began from the year 83, when this help arrived. hi
    3. Oldwiser
      Oldwiser 6 November 2014 21: 59
      Britain did not play alone in the "Great Game" - Russia was also very actively moving south - and annexed the whole of Central Asia to the Empire until it ran into Persia and Afghanistan. Here Britain (to protect India as the "pearl" of its crown) and had to climb into Afghanistan.
  7. tol100v
    tol100v 6 November 2014 20: 13
    And eat the fish and ... sit down!
  8. awersa
    awersa 6 November 2014 20: 15
    I already said a year ago that as soon as the Americans withdraw troops from Afghanistan, all these Central Asian kings in the form of Karimov and Tyrdmymukhamedov will run to us for help ... and we will not refuse, after all, who has a Basurman-Majokhed assemblage under their belly! Although there is another option - to launch the Taliban there for a week or two, let our neighbors fig really howl when they start to fry their heels, then then hammer from pre-prepared trunks, knock out spirits and, as full rescuers, settle down in these republics, not one bl..d the local one won’t blame that we are occupiers, because they will feel the charm of Sharia in Afghani on their own skin !!!
    1. Oldwiser
      Oldwiser 6 November 2014 22: 05
      I disagree - if you run the fundamentalists for at least one day, then fish out the future for a hundred years like microscopic leeches. Therefore, it is safer not to let them in. But this requires levers of "soft" pressure on the elites of Tashkent and Ashgabat. Dushanbe and Bishkek are more "tamed" in this sense.
  9. 6 November 2014 20: 17
    ISIS seemed to be pushing Assad through the snot of the moderate opposition. Now SGA does not know where to send weapons. And Obama is going to ask Congress for the introduction of ground forces. GOD is in their back.
  10. Andrea
    Andrea 6 November 2014 21: 06
    Undoubtedly, the south of the former USSR is a cause for concern, but Afghanistan is a huge pain in the ass. With the departure of the United States, the Afghans rushed to look for a new breast feed and, it seems, found it (I just watched Putin’s talk about Afghanistan, and that reminds me of that).
    Now this region is extremely important for Russia (yes, when was it unimportant?), But how would we not step on the same rake again. We will pour in money that we desperately need ourselves, and they, in return, we will drive heroin, yes grow Islamists.
  11. nomad74
    nomad74 6 November 2014 21: 49
    If the Americans are not there, then the production of heroin will fall. When the Taliban captured almost the whole of Afghanistan, they fought against the plantings of opium poppy, let it be known to you. And the reduction in the volume of opium produced was enormous, but everything changed after the introduction of the international contingent, so here is the answer to who is behind this and who needs it.
    1. Oldwiser
      Oldwiser 6 November 2014 22: 09
      The Taliban see heroin as a formidable weapon in their jihad against Western infidels, so there was no "reduction in poppy planting".
      1. Andrea
        Andrea 7 November 2014 05: 12
        There was a slight reduction. The Taliban extinguished all those who tried to engage in heroin on their own, why did they need competitors.
  12. Oldwiser
    Oldwiser 6 November 2014 22: 14
    The volatile situation in Central Asia further emphasizes the need to expand and strengthen ties with Iran as a major regional leader - with Russia from the north, Iran from the south, and China from the East, our volatile Central Asian "friends" will have fewer opportunities to keep up "and listen to the bad advice of crazy" Uncle Sam "
  13. mervino2007
    mervino2007 6 November 2014 22: 36
    Quote: nomad74
    If the Americans are not there, then the production of heroin will fall

    This can be assumed, but the Afghans' habit of easy money is unlikely to produce such an effect. After all, all production - both industrial and agricultural, is abandoned. It must be restored. It will take years. And the current generation of young Afghans to send there - a lot of money will be required.
    1. lichide
      lichide 7 November 2014 00: 24
      The habit of easy days is among representatives of many nations. But the nations, which we arrogantly believe are backward, wisely spit in the direction of our technogenic civilization with its frantic rhythm of chasing ghosts. Using the products of monsters - corporations, these peoples prefer to spend the days of their lives merging with nature, sitting peacefully on a stone with a machine gun on their knees and lovingly looking at a grazing herd with binoculars. And they live! Unscrupulously avoiding factory walk-throughs, traffic jams and political shows on TV.