US Military Heads For Pakistan, Reorganizes to Remain in Region, Prepare the Way for Global American Companies
January 9, 2002
In the end, especially for those who run the American Empire these days, it's all about massive wealth and power on a global scale.
At the turn of the previous century it was black gold in and around Arabia which propelled the Brits into the Arabian desert and which underlaid the British Empire's plans to establish friendly tribal-based regimes throughout the region. Now at the turn into the 21st century there is tremendous oil, gas, and mineral wealth -- not to mention markets -- in the region of the Caspian sea and south Asian areas of the former Soviet Union.
It was just four years ago in fact now that today's "evil" Taliban were in the U.S., right in George Bush's backyard in Texas in fact, discussing the future of oil, gas, and money -- see the new MER WORLD section of MER. Now it is the American Empire (with both British and Russian coattails) moving into the region big time under cover of "the war against terrorism" just as it was "the war against the Turks" (incidentally known as "the War to end all War" at the time) a century ago.
In the end the goal is to exploit and cash-in on the tremendous oil, gas, and mineral wealth. But first one has to establish compliant and controlled regimes, capitalist in orientation, cut in for a small piece of the action.
U.S. MILITARY TO PURSUE BIN LADEN INTO PAKISTAN
By Richard Wolffe in Washington, Mark Nicholson in Kabul and Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad
[Financial Times, London, updated 9 January 2002]: US troops are set to pursue enemy leaders into Pakistan as fears grow that Osama bin Laden and some of his key lieutenants have escaped over the border from Afghanistan.
General Tommy Franks, commander of US forces in the region, said Pakistan had agreed that US troops could cross the border to work with its forces attempting to follow al-Qaeda terrorists and Taliban fighters.
"We could contact [Pakistan] and say: 'We are observing people and we are going to follow them into Pakistan'," he said in an interview with Associated Press.
Pakistan's agreement represents a substantial concession by the country's military forces, which have maintained extensive patrols of the 1,500-mile frontier.
The preparations for expanded US military activity inside Pakistan also reflect a growing concern over intelligence reports that Mr bin Laden escaped across the border after intense air strikes against al-Qaeda caves in the Tora Bora region last month. The agreement underlines how the search for Mr bin Laden - as well as Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban's leader - remains the priority of US forces.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said on Tuesday that the US would not "operate unilaterally inside Pakistan". He added: "If we thought Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan I think we could rely on the Pakistani government and their forces to participate, and our role would probably be a liaison role."
Pentagon officials said on Monday they were shifting their focus from the manhunt for enemy leaders towards crushing pockets of resistance fighters in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said it would stop speculating on the whereabouts of Mr bin Laden and Mullah Omar after their escape in the last month.
In Islamabad, Pakistani officials and western diplomats said the government of General Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler, had decided to allow US troops to enter because in the past few weeks Pakistan has been worried over claims that the two men had entered the country. The agreement allows Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to closing down all the passes along its border.
"Now, policing is a joint responsibility of our troops and American troops," said a senior official last night. "It's much harder for anyone to say that Osama or Mullah Omar slipped over our border unnoticed."
Pakistan warned last week that if its Kashmir dispute with India escalated, some of its troops would be withdrawn leaving gaps through which fighters cou ld flee Afghanistan.
US forces on Tuesday launched air strikes for a fourth day on an al-Qaeda camp in eastern Afghanistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the recently-arrived US envoy to Afghanistan, said in Kabul that the US was still receiving reports of Taliban and al-Qaeda "activity" and bombing would continue.
U.S. IS BUILDING UP ITS MILITARY BASES IN AFGHAN REGION By ERIC SCHMITT and JAMES DAO
[New York Times, Page 1, 9 January 2001 - Dateline: WASHINGTON, Jan. 8] — Even as the air war in Afghanistan wanes and American-backed forces hunt down pockets of Al Qaeda and Taliban resistance there, the United States is preparing a military presence in Central Asia that could last for years, military officials say.
The United States and its allies are building an air base in Kyrgyzstan, a neighboring former Soviet republic, that the commander of the military campaign in Afghanistan described last week as a "transportation hub" to house up to 3,000 troops and accommodate warplanes and support aircraft.
Engineers are also improving runways, lighting, communications, storage and housing at bases in Uzbekistan and Pakistan where American forces are stationed, signaling a long-term commitment, or at least the ability to redeploy forces quickly.
"The job is still not done," said Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley, senior spokesman at the United States Central Command in Tampa, Fla. "There is great value, for instance, in continuing to build airfields in a variety of locations on the perimeter of Afghanistan that over time can do a variety of functions, like combat operations, medical evacuation and delivering humanitarian assistance."
The Pentagon has also approved a request by Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the commander of the military operation in Afghanistan, to station two aircraft carriers and thousands of marines aboard ships in the northern Arabian Sea through March, officials said. Navy officers expect that request could be renewed every three months.
In another sign that American forces are settling in, each branch of the armed services has adopted policies to rotate troops through the region, typically every 90 days to six months, General Franks said.
However many troops the Pentagon ultimately stations in Afghanistan and nearby, General Franks and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are looking to expand American military engagement by increasing technical support and training exercises with their counterparts in the region.
"Their function may be more political than actually military," the deputy secretary of defense, Paul D. Wolfowitz, said in an interview. He said bases and exercises would "send a message to everybody, including important countries like Uzbekistan, that we have a capacity to come back in and will come back in — we're not just going to forget about them."
The willingness of the Pentagon to put a long-term footprint in Central Asia underscores a broader shift by President Bush. During the 2000 presidential campaign, he criticized the Clinton administration's extensive overseas troop deployments, saying the military was being stretched too thin.
Many military analysts argue that a significant American military presence is needed around Afghanistan because the interim government does not seem intent on rooting out the remnants of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces, and the British-led peacekeeping forces are clearly counting on American firepower to back them up. But too large or too long-term an American military presence could alarm Russia and China to the north, and anger the Afghans, who often bridle at foreign military activity in their nation.
There is no better symbol of the long-term commitment of the United States military to Afghanistan than the recent arrival of the 101st Airborne Division at Kandahar airport to relieve about 1,500 marines there.
Like the marines, the 101st Airborne is intended for rapid deployment. But unlike the marines, Army troops are typically dispatched to hold territory for long periods — months, if not years. Army units tend to establish more permanent bases and more extensive supply systems.
At Kandahar airport, the 101st is likely to set up a semipermanent tent city known as a force provider or, more colloquially, a "city in a box." These portable units include sturdy, pop-up canvas structures to house and feed hundreds of troops. Latrines, water-purifying systems and work facilities are included.
Similar encampments have already been established at Bagram air base north of Kabul and at Khanabad air base in Uzbekistan, where more than 1,000 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division have been helping to guard and repair runways.
Initial plans call for about 1,000 soldiers from the 101st to secure Kandahar airport, guard hundreds of Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners and protect the airstrip for cargo planes carrying food, medicine and military supplies. But Pentagon officials said the 101st contingent could easily double in size if the number of prisoners grew sharply, or if American forces were needed to capture terrorists.
What remains to be seen is whether the encampments at Kandahar and Bagram will become as permanent as those in Kosovo, for instance, where the United States has 5,400 troops, or in Bosnia, where there are 3,100 American soldiers.
Two and a half years ago, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo was little more than a village of tents. Today it is a small, self-contained city with wooden barracks and command centers, helicopter maintenance buildings, a water-treatment plant, a movie theater, gymnasiums and a hospital.
The military is patterning its deployments in Central Asia on that model.
The United States and Uzbekistan announced an accord in October that gave the American military flexibility in operating from bases there in return for Washington's assurance that it would protect Uzbekistan's security.
But the Americans who arrived at Khanabad found a pitted airfield and insufficient runway lighting and traffic-control equipment. Extensive work was needed.
Much focus is now on an allied air base springing up on 37 acres near Manas International Airport, outside of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Since Dec. 16, about 200 American, French and British troops have been building a tent city to house 2,000 to 3,000 troops by next month, and preparing for air operations by month's end. The tents have floors and are heated.
"We're establishing a mini-air force base from which we can fly a variety of military missions, mainly airlift, aerial refueling and tactical air," Brig. Gen. Christopher A. Kelly, leader of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, said in a telephone interview from Kyrgyzstan.
American transport planes from Europe have flown in firetrucks, cargo loaders, tractors and de-icing equipment. General Kelly said the airfield itself was in good condition.
Early plans called for as many as two dozen fighter-bombers at Manas, including F-15E's, FA-18's and perhaps French and Danish strike jets.
But after a more detailed analysis of the taxiways, the 13,000-foot runway and the fuel system, General Kelly said, he recommended a smaller deployment. The final size and mix has not been decided, but cargo and refueling planes could begin arriving within a week or so, military officials said.
Manas would give allied forces increased flexibility: American warplanes would have a northern route into Afghanistan if tensions between India and Pakistan shut down southern air corridors for carrier-based warplanes, and the base could be used to ferry relief supplies.
"The purpose is to be able to use this as a transportation hub, essentially to get closer to Afghanistan so that we can bring large airplanes in and then be able to change their loads into smaller airplanes," General Franks said on Friday.
Unlike the arrangements with many other regional allies, the one- year agreement signed last month with the Kyrgyz government does not limit the type of aircraft or missions that allied forces can fly from Manas. "There are no restrictions," General Kelly said.