Tajikistan: Potential Energy Boom Could be Geopolitical Game-Changer

Colorful Old Oil Barrels. Image by L.C.Nøttaasen/Flickr.

There’s a potentially huge story developing in Tajikistan: Central Asia’s poor cousin may be sitting atop a vast pool of oil and natural gas. Yet, no one in Dushanbe – neither government officials, nor energy company executives – seems eager to discuss the prospect of an energy boom.

In July, Tethys Petroleum announced that its development zone in southwestern Tajikistan could hold over 27 billion barrels of recoverable oil equivalent. The estimate, if accurate, would represent more than the remaining oil in United Kingdom’s North Sea field. In a July 19 press release, Tethys boss David Robson asserted that Tajikistan had “super-giant potential.”

It’s not just Tethys – a company listed on both the Toronto and London stock exchanges, and registered in the Cayman Islands – that seems to believe in Tajikistan’s energy-production potential. Russia’s state-controlled conglomerate Gazprom has already started drilling a 6,300-meter well to reach what it hopes to be more than 60 billion cubic meters of natural gas, while Australian-based Santos is starting seismic studies after acquiring a 70-percent share in Tajikistan’s Somon Oil.

But since that initial burst of fanfare announcing its potential oil find back in July, Tethys executives have become tight-lipped. Representatives of the company repeatedly declined to speak on the record to EurasiaNet.org on oil and gas-related issues in Tajikistan. Gazprom and Santos are similarly reticent. » More

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Making Waves: Debates Behind China’s First Aircraft Carrier

Image by roberthuffstutter/Flickr.

China commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on September 25, 2012. It was a milestone that owes much to the vision of Admiral Liu Huaqing, who commanded the Chinese navy – formally the People’s Liberation Army Navy – from 1982 to 1988 and served as a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission until 1997. In those positions, he helped shape China’s maritime outlook and shift its navy from a coastal defense force to one capable of projecting power into the western Pacific. Liu argued that for the navy to fully transform it had to have an aircraft carrier. Ultimately he prevailed over resistance from the army and within his own service, though he did not live to see the Liaoning underway at sea.

While the aircraft carrier is not a revolutionary combat platform today, it remains symbolic of a navy that has reached the world’s first rank. Since China accelerated its naval modernization in the 1990s, its shipyards have produced scores of new vessels that range from nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines to amphibious assault ships. And over that time, Chinese naval engineers have had many opportunities to study aircraft carrier design—including decommissioned foreign aircraft carriers that Chinese entities acquired as well as the information gleaned from various exchanges. In one such exchange in 1995, Spain’s Empresa Nacional Bazan, which built the light aircraft carrier Chakri Naruebet for Thailand, offered China plans for a similar ship. Chinese officials also inspected and received bids for other retired aircraft carriers, such as France’s Clemenceau in 1996 and Argentina’s Vienticinco De Mayo in 1997. » More

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Russia Conducts Large Security Operation In North Caucasus

Image by LOreBoNoSi/Flickr.

Russia’s National Counterterrorism Committee (NAK) says that a large operation in the North Caucasus involving forces from the Federal Security Service and Interior Ministry has resulted in 49 militants and bandits being killed, including nine whom the committee called “odious” leaders of militant and outlaw groups.

The NAK reported on October 21 that the operations were carried out in Kabardino-Balkaria and Daghestan.

According to the NAK, four militant leaders were among those killed in Kabardino-Balkaria. It identified them by the names Batyrbekov, Ulbashev, Karkayev, and Tutov.

At least two separate operations were conducted in Daghestan, also leading to the deaths of several men who have been described as militant commanders. » More

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Afghanistan Post-2014: Will the Dark Days Return?

Will they be able to fight the Taliban after the Americans leave? Photo: Sally Armstrong, , RN/MOD via Helmandblog/flickr

October 7th marked the 11th anniversary of the United States-led war in Afghanistan. International combat forces are due to leave the country at the end of 2014, yet the war has remained “mission unaccomplished“. After years of conflict, NATO forces are set to handover responsibility for securing the country to the Afghan armed forces. However, it remains to be seen whether the Afghan’s will be able maintain order and stability after the withdrawal of foreign troops?

In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in order to dismantle the Taliban regime and the core leadership of al Qaeda. After several weeks of conflict, NATO troops successfully ousted the Taliban from various cities and helped to establish a new democratic country — the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. » More

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Mercenaries from Mali to Foment Unrest in Côte d’Ivoire?

UNOCI Conducts Disarmament Operation in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – February 2012. Photo: United Nations/flickr

According to a controversial report commissioned by the United Nations, former Ivorian President Laurent Gbabo’s exiled allies are recruiting Islamists from Northern Mali to destabilize the current government of President Alassane Ouattara.

News of the report broke on Saturday, October 6, 2012 on Radio France International (RFI). In an article entitled “Côte d’Ivoire: UN report rich in revelations” [fr] RFI describes the alleged links between the pro-Gbabo Ivorian Patriotic Front (FPI) and Ansar Dine Islamists in Mali. Their report also claims that a meeting took place on the border between Mauritania and Senegal to discuss the mobilization of mercenaries. » More

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