What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A road that matters

"Completion of road allows Afghans to bypass Pakistani trade monopoly

INDIA has finally completed a section of road that will open up Afghanistan to Indian trade, allowing Afghans to wean themselves off their forced dependence on
Pakistani goods and routes.

The 218km Zaranj-Delaram Highway in the south-west of Afghanistan will soon by handed over to the Afghan government, opening up a trade route between the Iranian sea port of Chabahar and Kabul. The new route will allow Afghanistan to bypass the often perilous, expensive and slow Pakistani trade route with Indian goods shipped to Iran.

Islamabad refuses to allow Indian goods bound for Afghanistan to travel across Pakistani soil and the new route through the southern Iranian city of Chabahar will allow India to ship goods to Afghanistan far more efficiently."

No comments needed I think, especially as I've been covering this at this site since a while now. Of course, to the title of this post, it should be added that security along the road is not a given as yet.
Meanwhile, I'm reading The Bin Ladens by Steve Coll, and that's another very good book, well-researched, from Coll, just as I imagined it would be. Reading of the Bin Laden company's road constructions I was thinking of what an interesting addition it could be to the discussion of roads that's been going on so long earlier this year in the blogosphere, part of it over here.
So the Bin Ladens built a lot of roads with a counterinsurgency role, to appease and better integrate the population in the remote areas near the Yemeni border, at first for protection against aggressive Egyptian subversion in the 1960s. Then in Pakistan, in the the 1980s, OBL used his family's charitable support to the Afghan cause to build a lot in the FATA, around the Parrot's Beak especially. Some roads as well as a lot of defensive complexes. With an insurgency role. I don't have anything in particular to say about this at this point, beyond noting the irony, but I was wondering how interesting the subject might be for a bit of background research on it. (Josh? I'm sure you'll read that book sooner or later, won't you?)
Anyway, strong encouragement to anyone interested in ME affairs, Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan for that matter, to get the book.
I've discovered just one weird flaw in it so far. (Detail Man to the rescue!) In the discussion of why Mohammed bin Laden got the assignment to renovate the Dome of the Rock in Jordanian-held Jerusalem in 1958, Coll somehow misses the point that bin Laden got the contract just a few days after the Iraqi Monarchy ended, with Baathist elements gaining more of a foothold in Iraq as a result, already then - and with Arab socialists to the other side of Jordan as well, in Syria, or, well, rather the United Arab Republic, actually. So it wasn't simply due to inside help that bin Laden made a slightly better bid in the end (cost-wise, mainly) than the Ali Abrahim company of Egypt. The latter was Nasser's Egypt after all! The Jordanian monarchy felt threatened in the circumstances, understandably, and they felt that the Saudis (and the Americans) had to be preferred at that very moment.
But Detail Man will just shut up now and nod in quiet agreement that indeed, you should get the book.
Update (August 11, 2008): Over the week-end chillout cycle which I enjoyed very much, I accidentally picked up the Economist at one point, to find this article about the bin Ladens and their current plans. It is freely accessible online - the first paragraph is below for an excerpt, but go over to the Economist's site and read the rest there.
"ONE OF Osama bin Laden’s many half-brothers, Tarek bin Laden, this week signed a deal with tiny Djibouti which may—or may not—mark the start of one of the world’s boldest engineering projects. Djibouti’s president, Ismael Omar Guelleh, promised Mr bin Laden 500 sq km (193 sq miles) of land to start building Noor City, the first of a hundred “Cities of Light” the vast Saudi Binladen Group plans around the world. “A hope for all humanity, the first environmental city of the 21st century,” gushed the promotional video at the signing. The audience, mostly American military contractors near retirement age, clapped enthusiastically. Engineers elsewhere say the scheme is a fantasy."

1 comment:

Joshua Foust said...

Hey, it's on my list. But I had honestly never thought of the COIN angle to the bin Laden family building roads. Now I feel I should move it up -- right after I'm done reading up for a triple-review.