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October 7, 2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by US-led NATO forces.
15 years since the bombs began raining down on the country. 15 years of drone strikes and civilian massacres, detainees and prison torture, insurgency and bombings, warlords and druglords and CIA kickbacks.
15 years of death. 15 years of destruction.
And still, like a decades-long nightmare, it continues.
The world was told that the invasion, launched after the invocation of NATO’s self-defense treaty, was a response to the false flag events of September 11, 2001.
But this explanation, like the official narrative of the events of 9/11 itself, was a carefully constructed lie. As Professor Michel Chossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalization explains, the US government’s demands for Osama Bin Laden’s extradition were proven disingenuous when they repeatedly denied the Taliban’s offers to extradite him, and the invasion itself, a major theatre operation, was launched impossibly quickly.
That the invasion of Afghanistan had been planned well before 9/11 was first revealed by Niaz Naik, the former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, who told BBC News that he “was told by senior American officials in mid-July [of 2001] that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October.”
This story was confirmed by Donald Rumsfeld, who told the September 11th Commission Hearings in March of 2004, that the first major national security directive of the Bush administration was a plan to combat the Taliban in Afghanistan. Although it was not officially signed until October 25, 2001, nearly three weeks after the invasion began, it was in fact drafted in June of that year and was sitting on the president’s desk waiting to be signed on September 4, 2001, one full week before 9/11.
“Dr. Rice has stated that she asked the National Security Council staff in her first week in office for a new presidential initiative on al Qaeda. In early March, the staff was directed to craft a more aggressive strategy aimed at eliminating the al Qaeda threat. The first draft of that approach, in the form of a presidential directive, was circulated by the NSC staff in June of 2001, and a number of meetings were held that summer at the deputy secretary level to address the policy questions involved, such as relating an aggressive strategy against Taliban to U.S.-Pakistan relations.
“By the first week of September, the process had arrived at a strategy that was presented to principals and later became NSPD-9, the President’s first major substantive national security decision directive. It was presented for a decision by principals on September 4th, 2001, seven days before the 11th, and later signed by the President, with minor changes and a preamble to reflect the events of September 11th, in October.”
So if the plan to invade Afghanistan was not about 9/11, then why were the neocons so eager to take over the country?
Like any major military operation, there are multiple strategic objectives to be achieved.
But this was by no means the only objective of the invasion.
From the monetary perspective there is as much as a trillion dollars of untapped mineral wealth in the country that could make it one of the world’s leading mining centres in the coming years, a mineral wealth that has been known about for decades.
And there is also the fact that the world’s lucrative multi-billion dollar heroin trade sources almost entirely from the country, with up to 90% of the world’s opium coming from the record crops that are being diligently protected by US troops.
The oil and gas pipelines. The mineral extraction. The opium. All of these are factors in the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan years after any pretence of an excuse for NATO’s presence evaporated. But there is one factor that has made Afghanistan the target of would-be world rulers for centuries: its location.
In 1904, Sir Halford John Mackinder PC, the Director of the London School of Economics, published an essay in The Geographical Journal titled “The Geographical Pivot of History.” In that essay, Mackinder laid out the “Heartland Theory,” a theory that would come to dominate foreign policy and geostrategic thought.
The Heartland Theory holds that the earth’s surface can be divided into a “world island,” the “offshore islands” and the “outlying islands.” The “Heartland” lay at the center of the “world island” and the Eurasian landmass, and its importance was summarized in Mackinder’s famous dictum:
“Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
Who rules the World-Island commands the World.”
This is why control of the Central Asian region, and Afghanistan in particular, has been prized by empire since the 19th century, when Britain and Russia engaged in diplomatic struggle, intelligence operations, military conflicts and subterfuge for control over Afghanistan in what was called “The Great Game.” And this is why former National Security Advisor and perennial Washington insider Zbigniew Brzezinski was able to predict in his 1997 magnum opus, “The Grand Chessboard,” that the first major war of the 21st century would take place in Afghanistan.
Brzezniski had no crystal ball. He did not know that the neocons would be in office in 2001. He had not seen NSPD-9. He did not know how 9/11 would be used as the fig leaf to cover the naked ambition of NATO’s land grab. But he did understand the geostrategic imperatives of world empires, and he knew that control over Central Asia was crucial to control over the world. Without NATO’s Afghanistan toehold, the US hegemon would have no chance of countering China and Russia in the New Great Game of the 21st century.
This is what Afghanistan was, is and always will be about: empire. The naked ambition of would-be world rulers. As long as that ambition remains unchecked, NATO will continue to keep its forces in the region at any cost. And as Russia and China continue to exert their own influence in the region, that deployment brings us one step closer to direct military confrontation.
And the people of Afghanistan, once again, are crushed underfoot, mere pawns in the game for world empire.