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Canadians could be defending Afghan gas pipeline

Dog

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http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080619/afghan_pipeline_080619/20080621?hub=Specials


Canadians could be defending Afghan gas pipeline

Updated Sat. Jun. 21 2008 12:09 PM ET

Josh Visser, CTV.ca News Staff

A U.S-backed pipeline would be an inviting target for the Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, and the planned project would run directly through Kandahar, the volatile region that Canada has promised to defend through 2011.

Afghanistan and three other countries agreed in April to build a US$7.6-billion natural gas pipeline starting in 2010 that would deliver gas from energy-rich Turkmenistan to energy-hungry Pakistan and India.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline is strongly supported by the U.S. because it would block a competing pipeline from Iran that would bring oil to India and Pakistan. It would also reduce Russia's dominance of the energy sector in Central Asia.

A U.S-backed pipeline -- more than 500 kilometres of it -- in Afghanistan would be an inviting target for Taliban and al Qaeda operatives there. It would be very difficult to defend.

But Ottawa and the military have been quiet about what could be one of the biggest changes to the operational paradigm in Kandahar, despite plans for such a pipeline going back a decade.

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GAP

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  Afghanistan, the TAPI Pipeline, and Energy Geopolitics
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 00:00 John Foster
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As Western powers look for an end game in Afghanistan, that country’s role as a planned transit route for natural gas from Turkmenistan deserves scrutiny. The long-planned pipeline, named TAPI after the initials of the four participating countries (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India), has been prominently discussed in the Asian press but rarely mentioned in the West. The TAPI pipeline is geopolitically significant, but has major challenges that have not been widely discussed.

A Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement, signed by representatives of the four participating nations on April 25, 2008 in Islamabad, envisaged construction to start in 2010, supplying gas by 2015. The announced 1,000-mile route would follow the ancient trading route from Central to South Asia, extending from the Dauletabad gas field in Turkmenistan along the highway through Herat, Helmand and Kandahar in Afghanistan, to Quetta and Multan in Pakistan, and on to Fazilka in India. Participating countries have held numerous high-level planning meetings during the past eight years, with Asian Development Bank (ADB) sponsorship and multilateral support. When construction will start is uncertain because security in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan remains a problem.

Afghanistan and the TAPI pipeline

The TAPI project has been documented at major conferences on Afghanistan. In 2006, at a donor meeting in New Delhi, countries promised to accelerate planning of the pipeline and to help Afghanistan become an energy bridge. In 2008, at a meeting in Paris, Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy (2009-2013) was presented to donors. This strategy mentions ongoing planning for the TAPI gas pipeline and Afghanistan's central role as a land bridge connecting energy-rich Central Asia to energy-deficient South Asia. In 2009, the Afghan government referred to the proposed pipeline again in documents relating to the First Afghan Hydrocarbon Bidding Round. The invitation to foreign companies to bid for exploration in the north of the country stated that “the TAPI project ... could be one of the export routes.”

The ADB completed a feasibility study in 2005 that was updated in 2008. Details were outlined at the April 2008 meeting of the four participating countries. The ADB reported that the estimated capital cost was $7.6 billion, and said it would consider financing for the project. Turkmenistan promised independent certification of the gas available for the pipeline. Plans called for the line to be built and operated by a consortium of national oil companies from the four countries. A special-purpose financial vehicle would be floated, and international companies would likely join in laying and operating the pipeline. According to press reports, the Afghan delegation informed the meeting that more than 1,000 industrial units were planned near the pipeline route in Afghanistan and would need gas for their operation. They said 300 industrial units near the pipeline route had already been established, and the project's early implementation was essential to meet their requirements.

Several bilateral meetings took place in 2009. In April, a Pakistani delegation visiting Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, suggested a new TAPI route that would skirt the war-torn area and add a spur to Gwadar, a Pakistani deep-water port. Turkmen officials stated they would offer gas from the Yasrak field, instead of the planned  Dauletabad field, and they provided a reserves certification for Yasrak. In September 2009, the foreign minister of India, S M Krishna, visited President Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan for discussions that included terms of the TAPI pipeline project.

If the pipeline goes ahead successfully, it could be Afghanistan's largest development project. According to the Ambassador of Afghanistan to Canada, transit revenue could amount to US$300 million per year. That would represent about one-third of the domestic revenue (US$887 million in 2008/09) budgeted for development efforts. Transit fees could help pay for teachers and infrastructure. Even so, Afghanistan's domestic revenue is dwarfed by aid. Foreign donors contribute about 90 percent of total funding for the development budget, and they call the shots. 
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pbi

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We need to stop being so sensitive on this suposed pipeline "issue": it offers a vulnerability we really don't have to offer. Personally, I hope there is a pipeline built in Afghanistan. At least one: maybe more. And a railway network, improved highways and better airports. And natural resource industries, and factories and warehouses. And a hydroelectric system, and water distribution, and health care. I hope it all happens , because a strong economy is usually a sign of, and a precursor for, long term political stability.  When people have jobs, and some reasonable hope for the future, they feel like they have a stake in things remaining on an even keel. And that, in the end, is what the world needs in Afghanistan and in that part of the globe in general. So, are we fighting for a pipeline? Not. not exactly. If we're fighting for anything, we're fighting for the establishment of a country that can build that pipeline as part of an economic revival.

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The Bread Guy

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At the rate we're going, pending any news from the government here, we won't be there long enough to protect ANY future pipeline.

Also, as PBI said, the jobs will go to Afghans building the pipeline, but I'm guessing not much of the gas passing through will come here or to the U.S., so the "colonial" argument of "blood for oil/gas/other petroleum product" is pretty moot.
 

Greymatters

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Whether its there or not, or whether we're going to be there or not, its not the role of the CF to protect private enterprise assets.  These companies make enough money to hire their own security (as they already do)...
 

pbi

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Greymatters said:
Whether its there or not, or whether we're going to be there or not, its not the role of the CF to protect private enterprise assets.  These companies make enough money to hire their own security (as they already do)...

I think I know what you're driving at, but I'm not sure I agree. If I follow your line above, then what is vital point protection? Don't we include all kinds of facilities under "vital points" that are owned by corporations? Communications nodes, electrical power infrastructure, railways, refineries, etc? Our job is to secure whatever is deemed to be in the national interest, if the private sector or the LEAs can't do it.

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Greymatters

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I agree we do these things, but in support of the primary objective which is stability of the government.  To me, staying in a country, or deploying to another country, just to guard pipelines is way outside the bounds of what the CF is supposed to be accomplishing. 

An argument could be made for this type of operation if it was related to national security or if our economy was threatened, but until that happens I cant see much political or civilian support for the idea either.
 

Edward Campbell

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The "stability of the government", especially in poor countries with fragile institutions, often depends upon its ability to provide essential services to the people: safety and security, to be sure, but also, food, shelter, education and healthcare for which oil pipelines and telecommunications infrastructure may be is a damned site more important that presidential palaces and the like. Don't even get me started on the importance of broadcasting and entertainment to social cohesion and, consequently, the "stability of government".

I'm with pbi: build those pipelines; put up those cellular telephone towers and coal fired power plants; build an auto plant; give the troops something worthwhile (to the people) to protect. Maybe if the troops are protecting something tangible and beneficial ...
 

pbi

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IMHO the most reliable indicator of a country's future stability is the size of the middle class and the economy they sustain: they had to work for what they have, but they have something they want to hold on to. Us middle class types are the biggest consumers of peace order and good government. The rich don't care and the poor don't have anything.

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Greymatters

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Okay, I see where youre going with this - but are you referring to government owned infrastructure or privately owned infrastructure, or do you see no difference between them?
 

Edward Campbell

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Greymatters said:
Okay, I see where youre going with this - but are you referring to government owned infrastructure or privately owned infrastructure, or do you see no difference between them?

I see no difference. For example: Is the great big, privately owned commercial microwave tower near Carleton Place any less vital (it carried a huge amount of Government of Canada telecommunications traffic, including a huge amount of DND's stategic communications) because it is privately owned? Is the privately owned Trans Canada Pipeline less vital than a government pipeline might be?

What's more vital: the DND dockyard in Halifax or the Halifax Shipyards facilities?

By the way, I also see no difference between foreign owned and nationally owned infrastructure.
 

pbi

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Greymatters said:
Okay, I see where youre going with this - but are you referring to government owned infrastructure or privately owned infrastructure, or do you see no difference between them?

Ownership doesn't matter. What matters is the effect of the loss or disruption of the capability. For example, is a railway bridge belonging to CP less important that one belonging to CN, because the latter was a creature of the Govt? What matters, from the vital point security POV, is what happens if the baddies get at it.

A similar example is the role of the civil police: although they are a public agency that acts on behalf of the govt,  they most definitely act to protect private property and interests.

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Greymatters

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I agree with both your points, but the examples are different from what I am thinking:

- Protecting only pipeline and related infrastructure
- In a foreign country
- No threat to Canadian national security

Would you still think this is a valid deployment?
 

Colin Parkinson

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Sheesh, does the left forget that the pipeline will provide revenue via transit fees to the government to support programs and wean them off aid money?

Also they fail to mention that any such pipeline will require about 5 years worth of route analysis, along with geotechnical tests and not to mention the negotiations for lands and political considerations for route options.
 

pbi

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Greymatters said:
I agree with both your points, but the examples are different from what I am thinking:

- Protecting only pipeline and related infrastructure
- In a foreign country
- No threat to Canadian national security

Would you still think this is a valid deployment?

Yes, if the protection of the pipeline was a strategic objective in itself, or contributed to achieving a strategic objective, and our participation in the security operation was contributing to a Canadian national interest. I would say that our own national security is probably our most important national interest, but not the only one.

I don't disagree that as a rule the corporate owners should be the "first responders" for the protection of their assets, followed by the security forces of the host nation. After that, I think it could be possible that we might get involved, if the conditions above were met.

Having said that it might be "valid", I'm not so naive to think that "validity" automatically translates in the public mind to "acceptability"; much less "popularity". It would probably be the exact opposite. For some reason, even though our country would come to a disastrous screeching halt without oil, we tend to regard the protection of our access to it as somehow shameful.

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Greymatters

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Then we are in agreement, just coming at it from different angles - thanks for making it clearer for me.
 
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