July 4, 2010
Afghan War: Petraeus Expands U.S. Military Presence Throughout Eurasia
On July 4 General David Petraeus assumed command of 142,000 U.S. and NATO troops in a ceremony in the Afghan capital of Kabul. He succeeded the disgraced and soon to be retired General Stanley McChrystal as chief of all foreign troops in Afghanistan, those serving under U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A)/Operation Enduring Freedom and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
He now commands military units from 46 official troop contributing nations and others from several additional countries not officially designated as such but with forces in or that will soon be deployed to Afghanistan, such as Egypt, Jordan and Colombia. Neither the Carthaginian commander Hannibal during the Second Punic War nor Napoleon Bonaparte in the wars that bore his name commanded troops speaking as many diverse tongues.
That Petraeus took charge of soldiers from fifty nations occupying a conquered country on his own country’s Independence Day has gone without commentary, either ironic or indignant. In 1775 American colonists began an eight-year war against foreign troops – those of Britain and some 30,000 German auxiliaries, the latter a quarter of all forces serving under English command in North America. Currently the three nations providing the most troops for the nearly nine-year-old and increasingly deadly war in Afghanistan are the U.S. (almost 100,000), Britain (9,500) and Germany (4,500).
Petraeus’s remarks on the occasion of accepting his new dual command contained the standard U.S. and NATO characterization of their war in Afghanistan as aimed exclusively against armed extremists, in particular those portrayed as fighters from other countries. A representative quote states “al-Qaeda and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan.” Two hundred and thirty-five years ago the government of King George III may well have spoken in a similar vein concerning the likes of Johann de Kalb, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Casimir Pulaski, Friedrich Von Steuben and the Marquis de Lafayette illegally entering British territories along the Atlantic Seaboard and waging warfare against the Crown’s troops.
Petraeus arrived in Kabul on July 2, direct from Belgium where he had addressed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the 28 member states’ permanent representatives in the North Atlantic Council and representatives of 46 ISAF contributors at NATO Headquarters in Brussels and Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Egon Ramms, Commander Joint Force Command Brunssum, and other senior military staff at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe near Mons. (Two days later at NATO headquarters in Kabul he had two flags bestowed on him, “one for the U.S. and the other for NATO.”) 
NATO chief Rasmussen was in Lisbon, Portugal the day Petraeus left Belgium for Afghanistan, in part to prepare for the November summit of the world’s only military bloc there in November, where NATO will adopt its new, 21st century, Strategic Concept and endorse plans for an integrated interceptor missile grid to cover almost the entire European continent in conjunction with, and under the control of, the U.S.
In reference to General Petraeus taking up his new duties, Rasmussen stated at a press conference with Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado that “It has been a change of command but it will not be a change of strategy.”
A week after Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan , an ephemeral scandal that disappeared as quickly, which is to say instantaneously, as it developed, the U.S. Senate voted as it customarily does in matters of foreign policy – unanimously – and in a 99-0 vote confirmed Petraeus as the new commander of the world’s longest and largest-scale war.
He told Senate members on June 30 that “My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months.”
A few days earlier he said of President Barack Obama’s proposed date for beginning the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan that the meaning of that pledge by the president, Petraeus’ commander-in-chief, was “one of urgency – not that July 2011 is when we race for the exits, reach for the light switch and flip it off.” Last December Petraeus asserted that there was no plan for a “rush to the exits” and that there “could be tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan for several years.” 
In May he spoke at an Armed Forces Day dinner in Louisville, Kentucky – on a day that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was visiting the same state – and insisted that “the US must continue to send troops to Afghanistan….” 
To indicate how thoroughly the Pentagon and NATO are inextricably enmeshed in not only the Afghan campaign but in a far broader and deeper partnership, a few days before Petraeus, speaking of his then-role as chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said that he has striven to “operationalize” U.S.-NATO military integration at CENTCOM ”where up to 60 representatives of coalition partner countries serve. In addition, officers from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia act as representatives of CentCom, increasing further the need to share sensitive information.” 
Afghanistan falls within CENTCOM’s area of responsibility and the war in that country is a mechanism for extending the Pentagon’s military contacts, deployments, acquisition of bases and general warfighting interoperability with scores of nations both within and outside CENTCOM’s formal ambit.
In April, three months before taking up his Afghan war post, Petraeus was in Poland – covered by U.S. European Command (EUCOM) – to meet with the nation’s Chief of the General Staff, General Franciszek Gagor, discuss the war that has now cost the lives of nineteen Polish soldiers, and disclose that “in a few months a 800-1,000 strong U.S. battalion would reinforce Poland’s ISAF forces in the Afghan province of Ghazni.
“Petraeus said that the U.S. troops would be placed under the Polish commander who is responsible for the province.” 
He also met with Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich and President Lech Kaczynski as well as delivering a lecture at the National Defence Academy. Kaczynski, who would perish in an airplane crash three days later, presented Petraeus with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and the Iraq Star. 
Other new NATO members in Eastern Europe are equally involved, with the Pentagon employing seven new military bases in Bulgaria and Romania to train Stryker brigades and airborne troops for the war in Afghanistan. 
As commander of CENTCOM and superior to General McChrystal in Afghanistan, Petraeus methodically laid the groundwork for expanding the scope of the greater Afghan war throughout his command’s broad geographical reach, the heart of what has been deemed the broader Middle East – from Egypt in the West to Kazakhstan in the East, taking in Iraq and the rest of the Persian Gulf region, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, and all of Central and much of South Asia.
On January 2 of this year he traveled to Yemen and met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the Christmas Day airline bomb scare outside Detroit, though Petraeus had also been in Yemen the preceding summer. Pentagon assistance to the Yemeni government, administered under what is described as a counter-terrorism program, had grown from $4.6 million in fiscal 2006 to $67 million in fiscal 2009.
While in Iraq the day before his departure for Yemen in January, Petraeus stated, “We have, it’s well known, about $70 million in security assistance last year. That will more than double this coming year.” 
At the time leading U.S. officials and those of its NATO allies strained to link their counterinsurgency wars – overt and otherwise – in the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden regions as extensions of the Global War on Terror from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia. Then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown even affirmed that “The weakness of al Qaeda in Pakistan has forced them out of Pakistan and into Yemen and Somalia.” 
In May the New York Times revealed that last September Petraeus had authorized covert special forces operations under a directive called the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order.
A United Press International feature last month indicated part of the order’s designs:
“The recent disclosure that the U.S. military is expanding its covert operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa is widely seen as a dangerous precedent, with Iran as one of the main targets….Officials stressed that the directive…permits operations that could pave the way toward possible military attacks against Iran if the confrontation over Tehran’s nuclear program worsens.” 
This March the U.S. Defense Department’s website featured an article entitled “Centcom Looks Beyond Iraq, Afghanistan, Petraeus Says” in which, in addition to discussing counterinsurgency operations in Pakistan and Yemen, “Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States must remain vigilant in overseeing broader security challenges throughout the region.
“Petraeus called Iran the ‘primary state-level threat’ in the Middle East. He told the panel that Iran undermines security throughout the region in its efforts to gain nuclear weapons, which threatens a broader arms race, and uses its paramilitary force to influence Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, Afghanistan and the Gulf region.” 
Two months before he announced the U.S. was maintaining several Aegis class warships in the Persian Gulf, ships equipped with advanced missile radar and Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles. “The U.S. positioned eight Patriot missile batteries in the Middle East and Aegis ballistic missile cruisers in the Persian Gulf, Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. Central Command leader, told the Institute for the Study of War on Jan. 22.” 
The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 theater missile interceptors are to be deployed to Iran’s Persian Gulf neighbor states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
In early March Petraeus was in what is now crisis-stricken Kyrgyzstan, less than a month before President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown in a bloody uprising . He had arrived in Kyrgyzstan on March 10, one day after “the U.S. embassy said [a] $5.5 million anti-terrorist center would be built in Batken in southern Kyrgyzstan – where Russian and Kyrgyz officials had earlier said Moscow might consider building a similar military facility.”  It would appear that Petraeus and the Pentagon once more beat Russia to the punch.
He met with Bakiyev (who would be forced into exile early the next month) “to discuss bilateral cooperation and the situation in Afghanistan.”  The U.S. has used an air base at the Manas International Airport near the nation’s capital since 2001 for moving troops in and out of Afghanistan, recently at a rate of 55,000 a month.
A political analyst based in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, Aleksandr Knyazev, was quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty during Petraeus’ visit on the repercussions of the Pentagon constructing a counterinsurgency/special forces base in the country: “Such a demonstrative act by the Kyrgyz side to agree…to (build a U.S.-funded counterterrorism center) is like throwing down a challenge to Russia and China.”
The feature from which the above comment is borrowed added:
“The Kyrgyz plan to set up a U.S.-funded training center in Batken might upset Russia, as the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization announced its intention last year to build a military base in southern Kyrgyzstan.
“Kyrgyzstan had been under pressure by Russia and China to close the U.S. air base. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security treaty dominated by Russia and China, has called on the United States to close its military bases in Central Asia.
“According to the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Washington has committed $5.5 million toward the completion of the counterterrorism center.” 
Petraeus also visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in early April and immediately after his return Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev met with President Barack Obama in Washington. Nazarbayev announced that he had granted the Pentagon the right to fly troops and military equipment over his nation for the expanding war in Afghanistan. According to Michael McFaul, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director of Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council, “the agreement will allow troops to fly directly from the United States over the North Pole to the region.” 
In early June a report titled “Pentagon Looks to Plant New Facilities in Central Asia” disclosed that the U.S. is “preparing to embark on a mini-building boom in Central Asia” and “the US military wants to be involved in strategic construction projects in all five Central Asian states, including Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.” 
In what was described as the major component of the project, the aforementioned training center in Kyrgyzstan, the report also stated, “The facility was originally intended to be built in Batken. But now it appears that it will be situated in Osh.” 
Three days after the above excerpts appeared online the city of Osh erupted into violence, a deadly conflict between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks which cost hundreds of lives and led to hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks being displaced.
An account of an announcement reported to have been posted on the U.S. government’s Federal Business Opportunities website in the middle of this May included this quote: “We anticipate two different projects in Kyrgyzstan. Both are estimated to be in the $5 million to $10 million dollar range.”
The posting “added that up to $5 million each was earmarked for Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It also listed two separate proposals for Tajikistan, one valued at up to $5 million, the other worth up to $10 million.” 
The U.S. military was evicted from the Uzbek air base at Karshi-Khanabad in November of 2005 and neither troops nor planes have returned since. But this April General Petraeus visited Uzbekistan, met with President Islam Karimov, and “the sides exchanged opinions on the issues of further development of Uzbek-US cooperation and other areas of mutual interest.”  American troops and pilots may soon join their German NATO allies operating from the air base at Termez near the Uzbek-Afghan border.
On June 25 Western news agencies reported that Ken Gross, the American ambassador to Tajikistan, where a French-dominated NATO operation has been run since early 2002 at the Dushanbe Airport but where to date no U.S. forces have been stationed, revealed that the Pentagon is to “build a facility for training local troops” to be opened next year. The American envoy said that “The plan [includes] almost $10 million to build this national training centre for the Tajik armed forces.” 
An Agence France-Presse report added that “The United States has in past years built training facilities, financed military programs and established airbases in a handful of strategic ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia….These include Georgia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus as well as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia.” 
Petraeus’s visits to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in April followed up on trips to the same three Central Asian nations last August, to Tajikistan in October and to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in January of last year.
What his visits have focused on and in large part accomplished is to secure transit rights and, as has been seen above, a military foothold in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Starting in earnest with his tour of Central Asia in January of 2009, Petraeus has solidified what is known as a Northern Distribution Network for the Afghan war, a three-prong project that takes in a majority of the fifteen nations that formerly constituted the Soviet Union and that circumvents Pakistan, hitherto the main land route for U.S. and NATO supplies into Afghanistan but one which is more endangered by attacks with each passing day.
The first route starts in Latvia on the Baltic Sea and proceeds overland through Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Last month “NATO marked a new first in its Afghan campaign…as officials announced that the alliance had sent supplies by rail to its troops via Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for the first time….”
“The first trial shipment of the NATO train departed Riga, Latvia on May 14 and arrived in Afghanistan on June 9….” 
The second starts at the Georgian Black Sea port cities of Poti and Batumi and moves south and east to Azerbaijan, then across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, from there to Uzbekistan and then to Afghanistan. A third option bypasses Uzbekistan by going, as the first does, from Latvia through Russia to Kazakhstan, but then from the last country through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan.
As commander of Central Command Petraeus oversaw a proxy war on the Arabian Peninsula  in Yemen and in conjunction with NATO engineered the military buildup against Iran in the Persian Gulf. 
He also to varying degrees pulled the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan deeper into the Afghan war nexus. Even nations outside of Central Command’s area of operations – Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Latvia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and now Russia – are part of the network. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine have troop contingents serving under NATO in Afghanistan, with Moldova likely to provide troops soon. Of the fifteen former Soviet republics, then, only Belarus would remain completely aloof from the war.
While speaking outside NATO headquarters in Kabul on July 4, General Petraeus stated “We are in this to win.” Only four days before, the deadliest month of the war for NATO forces ended and with it the lives of over a hundred foreign soldiers.
Petraeus’s 150,000 U.S. and NATO troops are not going to turn the tide in America’s longest, and NATO’s first ground, war. Nor will the conflict be shortened by pulling more nations, with almost a third of the world’s already embroiled, into the Afghan vortex.
1) Associated Press, July 4, 2010
2) West’s Afghan Debacle: Commander Dismissed As War Deaths Reach Record Level
Stop NATO, June 25, 2010
3) New York Times, December 7, 2009
Nobel Committee Celebrates War As Peace
Stop NATO, December 8, 2009
4) KEYC TV, May 15, 2010
5) Air Force Times, May 12, 2010
6) Xinhua News Agency, April 7, 2010
8) U.S. And NATO Accelerate Military Build-Up In Black Sea Region
Stop NATO, May 20, 2010
9) Reuters, January 1, 2010
10) Agence France-Presse, January 4, 2010
U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean
Stop NATO, January 8, 2010
11) United Press International, June 3, 2010
12) U.S. Department of Defense
American Forces Press Service
March 16, 2010
13) Stars and Stripes, February 3, 2010
U.S. Extends Missile Buildup From Poland And Taiwan To Persian Gulf
Stop NATO, February 3, 2010
14) Kyrgyzstan And The Battle For Central Asia
Stop NATO, April 7, 2010
15) Reuters, March 9, 2010
16) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 10, 2010
18) Washington Post, April 12, 2010
Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China
Stop NATO, April 14, 2010
19) EurasiaNet, June 8, 2010
22) UzReport, April 7, 2010
23) Agence France-Presse, June 25, 2010
25) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, June 11, 2010
26) Yemen: Pentagon’s War On The Arabian Peninsula
Stop NATO, December 15, 2009
27) NATO’s Role In The Military Encirclement Of Iran
Stop NATO, February 10, 2010
June 8, 2010
Pentagon Chief In Azerbaijan: Afghan War Arc Stretches To Caspian And Caucasus
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on June 6, meeting with President Ilham Aliyev on that day and on the following with Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiyev.
Gates was the first cabinet-level American official to visit the strategically positioned nation – located in the South Caucasus with Russia to its north, Iran to its south and the Caspian Sea to its east – in five years and the first U.S. defense chief to visit since Donald Rumsfeld did in 2005.
When Gates’ predecessor was last in Azerbaijan his mission centered on “the transportation of Caspian oil and the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline” as the chief element of U.S. trans-Eurasian oil and natural gas plans “which [are] directly connected with Mr Rumsfeld’s department”  to bring Caspian Sea hydrocarbons into Europe while bypassing Russia and Iran, both of which adjoin Azerbaijan.
Rumsfeld’s visit of five years ago also focused on a related initiative, the Caspian Guard project the Pentagon launched in 2003. “Guaranteeing security to the pipeline…will be the prime goal of the Caspian Guard. The Caspian Guard will represent a network of police detachments and special military units in the Caspian region.” 
At the time Rumsfeld’s Defense Department planned to allot over $100 million for the Caspian Guard to operate at both ends of the inland sea – Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan – and to be based in Stuttgart, Germany where the Pentagon’s new Africa Command is now based. In fact U.S. European Command was simultaneously elaborating plans for the Caspian Guard and a complementary Gulf of Guinea Guard in oil-rich western Africa to secure control over the 21st century’s main new sources of energy supplies. 
Gates arrived in Azerbaijan the day after the ninth annual Asian security summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore and before his attendance at the NATO defense chiefs meeting in Brussels on the 10th and 11th.
He had intended to visit Beijing following the conference in Singapore, but his overtures in that direction were rebuffed by the Chinese government, presumably because of Washington’s confirmation this January of plans to complete a $6.5 billion arms transaction with Taiwan, one whose latest installment includes 200 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missiles.
That Baku replaced Beijing on the Pentagon chief’s way to the NATO meeting indicates the importance that the comparatively small nation – with a population of under nine million while China’s is over 1.3 billion – has in American global geostrategic plans.
U.S. media reports highlighted efforts to mend fences with Azerbaijan after joint military exercises scheduled in the nation for last month were abruptly cancelled – evidently by the host country as a sign of dissatisfaction with Washington’s moves to take a more balanced approach toward Azerbaijan’s regional rival Armenia in a bid to lure all the nations of the South Caucasus into the U.S. and NATO orbit. Last December the Armenian government approved the deployment of troops to serve under NATO command in the Afghan war theater along with those of their Caucasus neighbors Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Received opinion has it that the U.S. intends to incorporate all three nations into NATO simultaneously. Armenia and Azerbaijan have NATO Individual Partnership Action Plans and Georgia a special, even more advanced, Annual National Programme.
The cancelled exercises were to have built upon last year’s Regional Response 2009 in Azerbaijan, a NATO Partnership for Peace operation to advance the North Atlantic military bloc’s Individual Partnership Action Plan with the nation.
To demonstrate that Rumsfeld’s Caspian Guard plans are still alive, during his visit to Azerbaijan Secretary Gates discussed bilateral military ties, particularly “further U.S. help with maritime security in the Caspian Sea.”
In his own words, “We already help them there with several tens of millions of dollars, boats, radars and capabilities.” 
According to the Pentagon’s website, “More military exercises and intelligence sharing also came up during the meetings,” Gates added, “and the discussions also touched on Iran and Russia,” with the American defense secretary saying of his hosts, “These guys clearly live in a rough neighborhood.” 
Georgia borders Russia and Armenia borders Iran, but Azerbaijan alone abuts both. The same defense minister Gates met with on June 7, Colonel General Safar Abiyev, not long ago addressed the head of state Gates met with the day before and said: “Our armed forces are able to annihilate targets in all the territory of Armenia. Mr. President, I notify you that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces are able to hit any target in the territory of Armenia.” 
Gates’ main concentration – or at least that of most immediate importance – was on the expanding war in South Asia, where he will soon have 100,000 U.S. troops serving with another 50,000 NATO forces.
Western and local reports have recently divulged that 25 percent of U.S. and NATO supplies and equipment for the Afghan war pass through what is referred to as the Caucasus Spur – Azerbaijan and Georgia – and that “100,000 troops have flown through Azerbaijani airspace in the past year en route to Afghanistan.” 
More specifically, “Tens of thousands of cargo aircraft have flown over Azerbaijan for the Afghan war, with planes ferrying 100,000 US and allied troops and personnel through the country’s airspace last year, Pentagon officials said.” 
With the recent turmoil in Kyrgyzstan hampering the transit of troops and equipment through the Central Asian country where hundreds of thousands of U.S. and NATO forces have passed directly to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan (in addition to Kazakhstan ) will play an even more pivotal role as the battle for Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province begins.
While in Baku, Gates delivered a personal letter from President Barack Obama to his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev. As the local press described it, “Gates, the most senior U.S. official to visit Azerbaijan since Obama took office last year, hand delivered the letter to Aliyev to make clear ‘we have a relationship going forward,’ a senior defense official said….” 
Obama commended his opposite number for doubling the amount of troops deployed to Afghanistan and providing the use of his nation’s land (for supply trucks) and air space, especially ahead of the next surge of 30,000 U.S. troops.
An Azeri news agency reminded its readers that “Azerbaijan is also a major oil producer and a key hub on a route for Central Asia and Caspian Sea energy to Europe bypassing Russia to the north and Iran to the south,” while quoting the following from Obama’s letter: “Azerbaijan’s leadership in the development for a Southern Corridor for energy has also increased regional prosperity and enhanced global energy security.” 
Gates told Azerbaijan’s defense minister that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would also be visiting the nation shortly.
Last month an Azerbaijani delegation visited Afghanistan to meet with the nation’s defense minister and NATO International Security Assistance Force commanders, during which “the education of Afghan national policemen, soldiers and officers in Azerbaijan” was discussed.  In early May U.S. military officers arrived in Baku to “hold seminars related to the tasks of operational officers at the battalion and brigade [levels].  The month before Azerbaijani troops began “a communication course in San Antonio, USA from April 21 to December 15.” 
In April Robert Simmons, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia and NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Security Cooperation and Partnership , was in Baku to promote Azerbaijan’s Individual Partnership Action Plan. In the same month it was announced that the bloc’s chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is to visit this summer.
Since January of 2009 Romania has been the NATO Contact Point Embassy in Azerbaijan and its ambassador to the country, Nicolae Ureche, the Brussels-based military bloc’s main liaison there. In early May he opened a conference in Baku titled NATO’s Role in Ensuring Security and Stability in Europe and in the Strategic Arena, dedicated to NATO 61st anniversary and the 16th of Azerbaijan joining the bloc’s Partnership for Peace program.
The preceding month the Romanian envoy gave a speech in Baku in which he stated that “In connection with the 61st anniversary of NATO, the NATO Institute of Cooperation and embassies of the NATO member-states accredited in Azerbaijan have declared April NATO Month in Azerbaijan.”  During his presentation Ureche “especially emphasized NATO’s attention to energy security.”  A week before he said, “We…welcome Azerbaijan’s role in ensuring global energy security.” 
That sentiment was echoed last week when Special Envoy of the United States Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar spoke at the 17th International Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition and Conference held in the capital of Azerbaijan and confirmed that Washington “support[s] the diversification of energy exports from the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia” and – American that he is – presumed to speak on behalf of Europe’s energy security, endorsing the anti-Russian Southern Corridor to transport natural gas and oil from the Caspian Sea Basin and the Middle East to Europe. 
The preceding month Morningstar’s fellow Foggy Bottom denizen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Tina Kaidanow, was in Azerbaijan. While there her message to the nation’s leaders was: “The United States considers Azerbaijan an essential partner. Our interests overlap in many areas, from collaborating on strengthening energy security via the Southern Corridor gas and oil projects to our work together countering terrorism and extremism. We appreciate Azerbaijan’s contributions to regional and global security, from Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan.”  Kaidanow took over her current post last August from Matthew Bryza, arguably a contender for Washington’s main point man in the former Soviet Union over the past two decades. His resume includes:
- Being attached to the U.S. embassy in Poland from 1989-1991 as contact person for Solidarnosc
- Serving at the U.S. embassy in Russia during the equally key transitional years of 1995-1997 with his main assignments being the Russian parliament, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the North Caucasus, especially then tense Dagestan
- Special advisor to Richard Morningstar (the current Special Envoy of the United States Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy) from 1997-1998, who at the time was Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Assistance to the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union
- Deputy to the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy from July 1998 to March 2001
- In 2001 he occupied the post of the National Security Council’s Director for Europe and Eurasia with emphasis on the Caucasus, Central Asia and Caspian Sea energy
- Became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in 2005
Last month the White House nominated Bryza as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan.
His appointment indicates the importance Washington assigns to the nation.
In March of this year Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg spoke of U.S.-Azerbaijan cooperation, mentioning in particular the “involvement of Azerbaijan in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, bilateral military ties in the context of Caspian energy and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline security, and the participation of Azerbaijan in the US-led military missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.” 
A Russian report on his comments added, “US companies are actively involved in the development of Caspian hydrocarbons in offshore Azerbaijani oilfields, and the US government actively supported the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline as the primary route of transportation for Caspian oil.” 
In the same month the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus in Washington sent a letter to President Obama “reflecting the importance of Azerbaijan-US relations.”
It included these items:
“Azerbaijan has opened Caspian energy resources to development by U.S companies and has emerged as a key player for global energy security. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project, supported by both the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations…has become the main artery delivering Caspian Sea hydrocarbons to the US and our partners in Europe.”
“Notably, in 2009 Azerbaijan provided nearly one quarter of all crude oil supplies to Israel and is considered a leading potential natural gas provider for the U.S supported Nabucco pipeline.”
“Azerbaijan was among the first to offer strong support and assistance to the United States. Azerbaijan participated in operations in Kosovo and Iraq and is actively engaged in Afghanistan, having recently doubled its military presence there.”
“Azerbaijan has extended important over-flight clearances for US and NATO flights to support ISAF and has regularly provided landing and refueling operations at its airports for US and NATO forces.” 
With Turkey increasingly adopting an independent foreign policy orientation not to Washington’s liking; with the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan reaching its apex; with the U.S. and its NATO allies ramping up pressure on Iran in Azerbaijan’s “rough neighborhood”; and with the U.S. pursuing global interceptor missile plans that may include evicting the Russian military from the Gabala radar station in the north of the country, Azerbaijan is assuming a greater strategic significance with each passing day.
That is why U.S. Defense Secretary Gates was there on June 6 and 7. It will not be his last visit.
West’s Afghan War And Drive Into Caspian Sea Basin
Azerbaijan And The Caspian: NATO’s War For The World’s Heartland
Eurasian Crossroads: The Caucasus In U.S.-NATO War Plans
1) Armenian News Network, May 10, 2005
3) Global Energy War: Washington’s New Kissinger’s African Plans
Stop NATO, January 22, 2009
4) U.S. Department of Defense
American Forces Press Service
June 7, 2010
6) Azeri Press Agency, April 24, 2010
7) Trend News Agency, June 7, 2010
8) Agence France-Presse, June 6, 2010
9) Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China
Stop NATO, April 14, 2010
10) Azeri Press Agency, June 7, 2010
12) Azertag, May 20, 2010
13) ANS News, May 3, 2010
14) Azeri Press Agency, April 19, 2010
15) Mr. Simmons’ Mission: NATO Bases From Balkans To Chinese Border
Stop NATO, March 4, 2009
16) Trend News Agency, April 8, 2010
17) Azeri Press Agency, April 8, 2010
18) Interfax-Azerbaijan, Azeri Press Agency, April 1, 2010
19) Trend News Agency, June 2, 2010
20) Azeri Press Agency, May 12, 2010
21) Itar-Tass, March 30, 2010
23) Azeri Press Agency, March 30, 2010