From the introduction of A Pipeline Through A Troubled Land: Afghanistan, Canada, And The New Great Energy Game, a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on plans to build the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline through the heart of Taliban territory patrolled by Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has become the central focus of Canadian defence, aid and foreign policy.
With Canada’s involvement in the country approaching its eighth year, casualties mounting and the cost still climbing, the government has tried to reassure Canadians that Canada’s goals are noble and worth the sacri?ce.
Prime Minister Harper used the Speech from the Throne in 2007 to articulate Canada’s ambitions.
“Canada has joined the United Nations-sanctioned mission in Afghanistan because it is noble and necessary,” said Governor General Michaëlle Jean on behalf of the government.
“Canadians understand that development and security go hand in hand. Without security, there can be no humanitarian aid, no reconstruction and no democratic development.”
But discussions of Canada’s role in Afghanistan have ignored the history of the region. Foreign powers have expended great sums in blood and treasure many times before.
Today, the Great Game is for control of energy export routes through Afghanistan, from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India. The United States, the world’s greatest power, is also the most dependent on energy imports. In the halls of NATO, energy security and national security have become intertwined.
At the 2008 summit in Bucharest, NATO’s leaders pledged: “The Alliance will continue to consult on the most immediate risks in the ?eld of energy security.”
The ?nal communiqué went on to say that “NATO will engage in… supporting the protection of critical energy infrastructure.”
Afghanistan’s role as an energy bridge is recognized at donor meetings and discussed in Asian newspapers, yet Canada’s decision-makers and opinion leaders have remained silent.
Canadian officials and Members of Parliament have participated in regional energy meetings.
But in government speeches and media reports, it’s as if no meetings have ever taken place. Why? What impact do energy issues have on Canada’s Afghanistan policy? Canadians may unwittingly be dragged into the new Great Game for control of energy.
It is essential that Canadians consider these issues when determining our nation’s role in Afghanistan and NATO.