The "Great Game" goes on.
February 4, 2009 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Kyrgyzstan is to close a key US military airbase which is a key staging post for coalition troops into Afghanistan. This is probably a question of money, as Kyrgyzstan is facing a looming energy crisis.
As predicted the "great game" continues, with Russia playing a tricky game.
First soften up your 'mark' with a cyber attack.
As a result Afghan supply routes now face setbacks.
posted by adamvasco (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Russia still pissed over Afghanistan, apparently.
posted by smackfu at 11:38 AM on February 4, 2009

so i was watching this democracy now interview with john perkins -- How To Destabalize Countries Legally -- and in part four he mentions the US military 'presence' on diego garcia near the seychelles; according to global security:
[Cold War] Fears of a naval vacuum in the Indian Ocean were soon overtaken by fears of the militarisation of the Indian Ocean. America neither denied nor acknowledged the deployment of submarine launched ballistic missiles. The Russian Navy started showing its flag in the Indian Ocean, partly to fill the naval vacuum, partly to counter the American Navy and partly to demonstrate to the littoral states that the Russian Navy was a force to contend with. Since Russia lacked naval bases in the Indian Ocean, an anchorage was developed off Socotra near the Gulf of Aden. Overall, there was a steady increase in the presence of American and Russian naval ships.

In 1969, American President Nixon's "Twin Pillar" strategy entrusted the security of the Persian Gulf region to the monarchies in Iran and Saudi Arabia. America started heavily arming both countries under the Nixon Doctrine. In 1970, the Russians became active in the Dhofar rebellion in Oman, which was a Persian Gulf choke-point. These moves towards militarisation of the Indian Ocean triggered countermoves to make the Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace. And both these moves and countermoves had to take into account the overall American hyper-sensitivity regarding West Asian oil supplies.

Until 1971, Diego Garcia's main source of income was from the profitable copra oil plantation. At one time, copra oil from here and the other "Oil Islands" provided fine machine oil and fuel to light European lamps. During the roughly 170 years of plantation life, coconut harvests on Diego Garcia remained fairly constant, at about four million nuts annually. The plantation years ended with the arrival of the U.S. military construction...

The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait marked the most intense operational period in Diego Garcia's history... Diego Garcia became the only US Navy base that launched offensive air operations during Operation Desert Storm and Diego Garcia remains a vital link in the US defense structure... The mission of putting bombs on target almost 4,000 miles away in Afghanistan is comparable to flying from Chicago to Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Success falls on the backs of bomber and aerial refueling aircraft that commute together from the tropics to Afghanistan. Coalition aircraft at Diego Garcia dropped more ordnance on Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan than any other unit during the war on terror.
anyway, no point in particular really; i was just reminded of this when i heard about the manas base, which might help place its closure in context? oh and maybe to note that:
Seychelles follows a policy of what it describes as "positive" nonalignment and strongly supports the principle of reduced superpower presence in the Indian Ocean.

The Seychelles Government is one of the proponents of the Indian Ocean zone of peace concept, and it has promoted an end to the U.S. presence on Diego Garcia. Seychelles' foreign policy position has placed it generally toward the left of the spectrum within the Nonaligned Movement.
that is all! cheers :P
posted by kliuless at 1:04 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow, the Russians sure are keyed up over this.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:06 PM on February 4, 2009

Kyrgyzstan is on my list of Countries To Visit Before I Die. The Kyrgyz have a curious history, having for the most part recused themselves from most of the dramas that swept across Central Asia, and aren't prone to radicalism of any sort. This is part of the reason why they've helped the US with operations in Afghanistan. As the Reuters article indicates, Russia has a vested interest in Afghanistan, too, out of a fear of radical Islam coming up through Central Asia, and have been supportive of the US effort in Afghanistan. However, military operations in Afghanistan aren't as important to Russia these days as making sure western influence in Central Asia is kept in check. The comparisons to Georgia and the Ukraine are apt. Only the Kyrgyz have been pretty friendly with or at least neutral to Russia - there hasn't been any of the pro-western sabre rattling that went on in Georgia or the Ukraine. This really looks like Kyrgyzstan being picked on, and it sucks.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:13 PM on February 4, 2009

Seems like a smart move by Russia. IIRC they're offering the US use of one of their own bases from which to supply forces in Afghanistan, but after the Georgian fiasco it's pretty obvious the US can't be trusted in their backyard.
posted by pompomtom at 2:35 PM on February 4, 2009

oh hey that reminds me, they haven't written about the base yet per se, but is a good place to go for news from central asia...
By the time I woke up, it was seven hours later and the pilot was yelling something over the intercom I couldn’t understand through my ear plugs and I really had to pee. We had two hours before landing. I glanced at my watch. We should have landed two hours ago. It was too noisy to ask much, so I tried to sleep as we rattled around and slammed to the tarmac.

I stepped out of the plane, blinking at the blinding white and biting cold seeping through my fleece. Those mountains look very wrong, I thought to myself. Once we were out and I missed the first batch of three buses taking us back to the terminal, I asked a Sergeant next to me where we were. He giggled and made some comment about me being “out of it,” then said we were in Manas.

“I thought we were going to Bagram?”

“Yeah,” he said. “We circled Bagram for an hour, but they had like really bad fog, so they diverted us here.”

All I could say was, “huh.” I really hadn’t planned on winding up in Kyrgyzstan. I whipped out my iPhone and began snapping pictures.

“Sir, please don’t take any photographs,” a rather insistent woman of some enlisted rank I couldn’t recognize said. I got a few decent ones, but that’s fine. I know they don’t want to give away secrets you could [get] reading Defense Technology International.

Eventually, another bus came to bring us back to the terminal. We got to eat at the Manas DFAC, I got to experience the Kyrgyz soldiers laughing at my laughable pidgin Russian, and I realized that all DFAC food is the same, worldwide, all the time. How depressing. We were then herded outside, and told to wait 30 minutes for buses to take us back to the plane. Two and a half hours later, the buses showed up (I passed the time talking about nothing with this cool Major who flies Chinooks), and we got on our merry way back to the tarmac.

Three hours after that, we were airborn again. I slept, utterly exhausted. We landed around 7:30pm Bagram time, many many many hours after we were supposed to. My colleague met me at the terminal and took me up to our room, whereby I promptly passed out.
discussion on government IT in the comments ftw! cheers :P
posted by kliuless at 2:43 PM on February 4, 2009

Russia Plans Central Asian Force
The Kremlin unveiled plans to form a potent new military force in Central Asia with former Soviet satellites that it says will match NATO standards.
posted by kliuless at 3:00 PM on February 4, 2009

Here's an OpEd by StratFor's George Friedman: Afghan Supplies, Russian Demands (NYT)
"So how can Mr. Obama reconcile the two goals of strengthening the American presence in Afghanistan while curbing Russian expansionism? The answer is to rely less on troops, and more on covert operations like the C.I.A. Covert operators are far more useful for the actual war that we are fighting (and they can carry their supplies on their backs). The primary American interest in Afghanistan, after all, is preventing terrorist groups from using it as a base for training and planning major attacks. Increasing the number of conventional troops will not help with this mission."
posted by lullaby at 3:44 PM on February 4, 2009

friedman is certainly provocative! i prefer zakaria tho :P viz. How to Salvage Afghanistan:
In May 2006 a unit of American soldiers in Afghanistan's Uruzgan valley were engulfed in a ferocious fire fight with the Taliban. Only after six hours, and supporting airstrikes, could they extricate themselves from the valley. But what was most revealing about the battle was the fact that many local farmers spontaneously joined in, rushing home to get their weapons. Asked later why they'd done so, the villagers claimed they didn't support the Taliban's ideological agenda, nor were they particularly hostile toward the Americans. But this battle was the most momentous thing that had happened in their valley for years. If as virile young men they had stood by and just watched, they would have been dishonored in their communities. And, of course, if they were going to fight, they could not fight alongside the foreigners.

In describing this battle, the Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen coins a term, "accidental guerilla," to describe the villagers... Reduced to its simplest level, the goal of American policy in Afghanistan should be to stop creating accidental guerrillas. It should make those villagers see U.S. forces as acting in their interests...

It will help immeasurably if we keep in mind the basic objective of U.S. policy there. "My own personal view is that our primary goal is to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists and extremists to attack the United States and its allies," said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week. That is an admirably clear statement.

It is not that we don't have other goals—education, female literacy, centralized control of government services, drug eradication, liberal democracy. But many of them are objectives that will be realized over very long stretches of time, and should not be measured as part of military campaigns or political cycles. They are also goals that are not best achieved by military force. The U.S. Army is being asked to do enough as it is in Afghanistan. Helping it stay focused on a core mission is neither cramped nor defeatist. It is a realistic plan for success.
and btw some advice from djerejian...
posted by kliuless at 4:14 PM on February 4, 2009

I've been there. Manas is a nice place to visit is you like desolate, arctic hells. The Air Force did a nice job of ripping out every sign of vegetation and laying down white, powdery rocks that give one the feeling of being trapped on the moon.

After Afghanistan, where there's an earsplitting explosion, vehicle engine, helicopter, or gunshot going off every three minutes, Kyrgyzstan has an otherworldly silence. When we landed, it was like finding ourselves in a Star Trek temporal rift where time stands still and nothing -- NOTHING -- ever happens.

And it's cold. Cold. COLD. Kyrgyzstan made the mountains of Afghanistan feel like a French Polynesian resort. (And we had weeks in Afghanistan of ten below, which is a lot colder than you think when you're outside with minimal snivel gear.) Maybe it just felt worse. I don't know. Oh, and there's no hot water in Manas. Or maybe the Air Force guys kept it for themselves. The Army barracks (or should I say, frozen hangars with broken heaters -- meat lockers, in other words) had sub-zero showers. Basically, the shower heads were like machine guns firing little shards of ice.

Believe me, by kicking us out, the Russians are doing us a favor.
posted by dbgrady at 4:39 PM on February 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

The Kremlin unveiled plans to form a potent new military force in Central Asia with former Soviet satellites that it says will match NATO standards.

Sounds like they'll planning on bankrupting themselves again.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:20 PM on February 4, 2009

Thanks for the link kliuless - djerejian seems to get it bang on the button. Unless we change the way the Afghans are experiencing foreign troops - at the moment they're primarily combat troops an escalation in troop nuimbers would be like pouring oil on a fire.
posted by YouRebelScum at 2:29 AM on February 5, 2009

I was there for a few years, and keep up with friends and family still there. This talk of Kyrgyzstan being pro-west or not kind of misses the point. The place is completely falling apart, and is well on the way to becoming a failed state.
  • whether or not the base stays is not a matter of geopolitics but of who needs to be bribed, with what. The political class in Kyrgyzstan is tribal, absolutely corrupt, and in bed with criminal elements. Who gives a shit if the Internet works, what matters is cash and prizes for the people at the top making the decisions.
  • lack of Internet is the least of the place's problems. The 70s era infrastructure is crumbling away, and people in the capital get rationed power for a few hours a day. Ditto with hot water and heat.
  • For people in the provinces the situation is even worse.
  • There is no such thing as the rule of law. Getting anything done requires bribes - to police, to government officials.
My step son is Kyrgyz, and it breaks my heart that I can't get him out of that shithole. I really worry for his future.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:36 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

kliuless: It should make those villagers see U.S. forces as acting in their interests...

Why? You just said that when they fought us, they didn't do it because they disliked us or liked the Taliban. They did it because they had to fight the foreign invaders because of some ridiculous cultural thing about virility and/or honor. It doesn't help to kiss up to that mentality, they're always going to hate any invading power.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:34 PM on February 5, 2009

I said Kyrgyzstan? Yeah, well, Kyrgyzstan has no nuclear weapons. Khazakhstan is a country four times the size of Texas and has a sizable number of former Russian missile silos. Kyrgyzstan is on the side of a hill near China and has mostly nomads and sheep.
posted by naoko at 10:11 PM on February 5, 2009

Obama May Postpone Afghan Surge; Severe Problems in Supply Routes Afflict Aghanistan War Effort.
posted by adamvasco at 4:15 AM on February 8, 2009

The Big Picture: Kyrgyzstan and Manas Air Base
posted by homunculus at 7:46 PM on March 3, 2009

« Older The Power of Paint   |   smash it up. please. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments