Ideology acts as a veneer to cover real geopolitical interests and has been more than explicit in the American drive to camouflage its interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia under the cover of the “War on Terror.” While the American policy has been to sponsor ‘liberal democracy’ in Afghanistan and keep the war-ravaged country weak without allowing the state to consolidate power, it did not bother to strengthen the hands of the authoritarian rulers of Central Asia in the name of creating a common front against terrorism.
In contrast to the arguments of many scholars that globalization has rendered geopolitics irrelevant, the American motives in Afghanistan seemed to have largely been geopolitical and long-term. It is in tune with the US’s larger game plan of keeping Russia too weak to consolidate its control over the heartland and on the other hand enhances its own land power capabilities and access to natural resources like oil and natural gas. Control over Afghanistan is vital to acquire a line of communication between the Indian Ocean and the Eurasian landmass in order to develop multidimensional strategies.
At the same time, being the meeting point of many regions, Afghanistan provides the point of access to the West, Central and South Asian regions.
While many scholars saw the American crave for natural resources in its Afghan drive, however, reducing everything to oil does not allow one to understand the larger geopolitical interests the US wanted to pursue in Afghanistan and through it in Central Asia. The US has enough oil beneath its own soil and it also easily secures oil from Latin American countries. From a military and strategic perspective, Afghanistan provided the US accessibility to a large continental expanse to operate against both conventional and non-conventional threats. Apart from the economic value and utility of natural resources, its production and supply carry a geopolitical significance.
In this context, Afghanistan’s importance as an alternative route to transfer Central Asian resources needs to be underlined. First, multiple pipelines would end the hegemony of a few particular powers. Secondly, controlling the production and supply of natural resources would require a military projection of power and that would go a long way in securing supply of these resources to regional allies and denying the same to countries adopting adversarial foreign policies. Therefore, natural resources can be used as an instrument to control and shape foreign policies of state actors. Thirdly, the supply routes for their safety would require military presence and thereby would contribute to the development of military strategies of the controlling power. Finally, the ports and routes for the transfer and trade of natural resources can have dual use: commercial and military.
Therefore, despite their commercial non-viability, the alternative pipeline projects like Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) - the pipeline through Turkey bypassing Iran and Russia was given utmost importance by the US. However, under the present circumstances, the American objectives seem to be farfetched and a lot depends on the vital role that the US plays in the reconciliation efforts and on the equations that it shares with other important players like Pakistan and China.