Last week marked the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the NATO occupation of the landlocked country in the Hindu Kush. Ostensibly, the 9/11 attacks provided the reason for the invasion. As I have pointed out recently the whole 9/11 discourse is awash with conspiracy and other conundrums which do not make it easy to determine the reality. It would stand to reason to look at the PNAC document Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century (2010) as a pivotal text in 21st-century U.S. foreign policy thinking. The Project for the New American Century or “PNAC, as a Neo-Con think tank, was trying to figure out how America could again become the primary power in the world, but deemed such a development unlikely ‘absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor’ . . . a phrase that has by now become emblematic of George Bush’s War on Terror and the doctrine of pre-emption in the minds of critics of the U.S. and its foreign policy under Bush and Obama. There are those who say that it was no coincidence that the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were hit, suspecting that the PNAC and the Bush administration had previous knowledge of the plot, or were even involved in the planning and execution of the attacks”. Quite apart from any kind of involvement of the Bush administration, the fact that the 9/11 attacks have functioned as “a new Pearl Harbor” for the 21st century seems incontrovertible and now at the outset of the second decade of the century, the War-on-Terror is still being waged as enthusiastically as ten years ago. President Obama campaigned on the premise of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to then re-engage in the Af-Pak Theatre where the real war was being fought, hinting at a menacing Al Qaeda presence and its supposed kingpin Usamah bin Laden. Now that the U.S. has all but “dismantled” Al Qaeda in the Hindu Kush and executed Usamah bin Laden, it would seem that President Obama has made good on his promise . . . alas, U.S. troops still do not seem ready to leave Afghanistan.
On the occasion of last year’s 9/11 anniversary I wrote the following in Today’s Zaman: “According to former Pakistani diplomat Niaz Naik, approximately two months prior to 9/11,the Bush administration had already decided to topple the Taliban regime and install a more amenable transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. In July 2001 a four-day meeting was held in Berlin under the portentous heading of “brainstorming on Afghanistan.” . . . Literally one week after the attacks, the BBC’s former Pakistan correspondent George Arney related that Naik had “no doubt that after the World Trade Center bombings this pre-existing US plan had been built upon and would be implemented within two or three weeks.” And Niaz Naik proved right. Was he therefore really a man who knew too much? In early August 2009, Naik was tortured and murdered in his residence in Sector F-7/3 of Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad”. In the piece I connected Naik’s assertions with the plans for a pipeline project that was supposed to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea, through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI). I maintained that the “TAPI project was undoubtedly high on the [Berlin] session’s agenda”, adding that “[i]n meetings held in the Turkmen capitol of Ashgabat April 17-18 [,2010], the go-ahead was given and work on the lucrative project started in May , with 2015 as the provisional completion date when Turkmenistan’s liquid gas will start flowing southward”. As a result, my Today’s Zaman piece presented an ulterior motive for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, a motive that also happened to be congruous with the reasoning of Zbigniew Brzezinski, the architect of the U.S. support of the Afghan Mujahideen in the eighties. This realisation then led to recognising the importance of China as the new rival of the U.S., not just in Central Asia but across the wider world. And thus, I concluded that “[i]n spite of the very real TAPI project and the American backing for the pipeline in the US pursuit of a fossil fuel policy, President Obama is keen to continue the Bush rhetoric as well as policy. In his address to the nation from the Oval Office on Aug. 31 to mark the end of the combat mission in Iraq, he made the following remarks: ‘And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al-Qaeda. … Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11. … As we speak, al-Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists’”.
But today Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda no longer a viable presence in the Af-Pak Theatre. Still, the American soldiers are staying put on the ground. The U.S. has over the years taken over and improved the former Soviet base of Bagram, now known as Bagram Airfield or Bagram Air Base. The informative website Global Security provides this introduction: ‘Bagram Airbase is located in the Parvan Province approximately 11 kilometers (7 miles) southeast of the city of Charikar and 47 Kilometers (27 miles) north of Kabul. It is served by a 10,000 foot runway built in 1976 capable of landing large cargo and bomber aircraft. Bagram Airbase has three large hangars, a control tower, and numerous support buildings. There are over 32 acres of ramp space. There are five aircraft dispersal areas with a total of over 110 revettments. Many support buildings and base housing built by the Soviets, have been destroyed by years of fighting between the various warring Afghan factions. Bagram Airbase played a key role during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, serving as a base of operations for troops and supplies and Aircraft based at Bagram provided close air support for Soviet and Afghan troops in the field. Some of the Soviet forces based out of Bagram included the elite 105th Guards Airborne Division’. And the base has now become a small city, including bowling rinks, fastfood outlets and other diversions. Earlier this year, the Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum Brands franchise Pizza Hut opened up a branch at Bagram, and its spokesman said that the company is “proud to be serving the men and women who serve in Afghanistan”. Additionally, Miami-based Burger King also opened its doors in Bagram. In other words, the U.S. service men and women are made to feel home away from home . . . arguably in an effort to boost morale and to ease ever-lengthening deployments in the Hindu Kush. Recently, Retired USAF Lt Col Karen Kwiatkowski appeared on RT where she outlined her contention that the U.S. had achieved its objectives in Afghanistan: to build permanent bases. Talking about the U.S. leadership, she said that “[t]here is a good reason in their minds why they are there, and they plan to stay. We like these military bases too well, we like the minerals, and we like the geographic positioning Afghanistan provides our military”. Kwiatkowski openly refers to the recently rediscovered mineral wealth in the Afghan mountains, and also insinuates that China is another reason the U.S. is positioning itself in a comfortable and secure base to keep an eye on Beijing’s designs. She further asserts that the occupation of Afghanistan “is not a success for the
American people, who are very tired of this. But the real reasons that we are in Afghanistan have never been put forward”.
In addition to Bagram in Afghanistan, there is also the Manas Air Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, a country bordering China’s important Xinjiang region where all of China’s Central Asian pipelines converge and other underground wealth is also available. Even more poignant is the fact that last year, the U.S. was also planning to build a second base in the land of the Kyrgyz – namely a $10 million military training base in the southern city of Osh called Osh Polygon. Osh was also the scene of ethnic clashes that led to many deaths last year. Not being content with the size of its military footprint in Central Asia, the small non-Turkic nation of Tajikistan was also included in the U.S. strategy of encircling China in 2009. Late last year, WikiLeaks released a cable that even indicated that the Tajiks were actively seeking a U.S. base on its soil: “The Tajik government presses us for greater benefits in return for support on Afghanistan . . . They see U.S. involvement in the region as a bulwark against Afghan instability, and as a cashcow they want a piece of”.
And lest we forget, Uncle Sam’s Central Asian adventures do cost a lot of money. According to Reuters, President Obama ‘referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America’s wars’. The Reuters’ report then adds that ‘[s]taggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released Wednesday [, 29 June 2011]. The final bill will reach at least $3.7 trillion and could be as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project “Costs of War” by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies’. For Dow Jones Newswires, Corey Boles now writes that the “federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion budget deficit in fiscal 2011, the same level recorded in fiscal 2010, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday [, 7 October 2011]. In its monthly assessment of the government’s finances, the nonpartisan congressional scorekeeper said the $1.3 trillion deficit was equivalent to 8.6% of U.S. gross domestic product, down from 8.9% in fiscal 2010 but still the third-highest percentage of GDP recorded since 1945”.
 C. Erimtan, “9/11 and the occupation of Afghanistan”.
 C. Erimtan, “9/11 and the occupation of Afghanistan”.
 “Afghanistan – Bagram Airbase” Global Security. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/afghanistan/bagram.htm.
 Matthew Rosenberg, “Afghan Forces Eat Up Return of Fast Food .” The Wall Street Journal (February 2011). http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703610604576158610111737164.html.
 “’Afghans cannot kick US out, so we stay’” RT (07 October 2011). http://rt.com/news/us-military-mission-afghanistan-259/.
 Cfr. “Pleading the Afghan Case” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (13 August 2011). http://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/afghanistan-ashraf-ghani-ahmadzai-pleading-his-case-the-%e2%80%98saudi-arabia-of-lithium%e2%80%99/.
 “’Afghans cannot kick US out, so we stay’”.
 Walter Pincus, “U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan remains on track despite tensions” The Washington Post (07 August 2010). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/06/AR2010080606148.html.
 “U.S. Envoy: Tajik Base Not Alternative To Manas” RFE/RL (22 April 2009). ttp://www.rferl.org/content/US_Envoy_Tajik_Base_Not_Alternative_To_Manas/1613530.html.
 Joshua Kucera, “U.S.: Tajikistan Wants to Host an American Air Base” The Bug Pit (14 December 2010). http://www.eurasianet.org/node/62570.
 “Cost of US wars since 9/11? At least $3.7 trillion, study finds” Reuters (29 June 2011). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43573008/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/t/cost-us-wars-least-trillion-study-finds/.
 Corey Boles, “US Had $1.3 Trillion Budget Deficit In Fiscal 2011” Dow Jones Newswires, (07 October 2011). http://www.nasdaq.com/aspx/stock-market-news-story.aspx?storyid=201110071435dowjonesdjonline000517&title=us-had-13-trillion-budget-deficit-in-fiscal-2011.