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WHEN BARACK Obama says he wants to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, he’s talking about a lot more than smashing al-Qaeda or crushing the Taliban. What he’s after is a permanent outpost of U.S. imperialism in Central Asia, one of the most strategically important places on the planet.
But in fact, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had–from the perspective of U.S. imperial strategists–its own powerful logic. One key reason, of course, is access to oil and gas resources in the Caspian Sea region and Central Asia. Journalist Pepe Escobar calls the region “Pipelineistan,” and sure enough, the U.S. is angling for pipeline to move natural gas out of the Caspian along a corridor that bypasses Russia and Iran:
According to Escobar, the U.S. and China are competing to develop the Pakistan port town of Gwadar as the termination point for both proposed pipelines as part of the 21st century revival of the 19th-century “Great Game” in which rival imperial powers competed for influence in Central Asia. Escobar’s analysis is compelling–as far as it goes. He rightly focuses on the maneuvering for the most crucial commodity for modern industrial powers–oil. But even this understates the importance of Central Asia to U.S. imperialism. To understand why, it’s helpful to recall U.S. strategic aims following the end of the Second World War in 1945 when the U.S. emerged as the world’s dominant imperialist power.