Tariq Ali assumes that defeating a group of bearded men with no reach beyond Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, is the prime motive of NATO operations. One does not have to be a 'conspiracy theorist' to put two and two together and realise why the troops are forced to be there in the Afghan wilderness, under constant attack. The energy rich regions of the countries adjoining Afghanistan are predicted to be providing 80% of the worlds oil/gas by 2050. Shell, BP and other oil companies have major investments in the region. As far back as 1996, the Taliban were being feted and entertained in Texas because of the oil pipeline route planned by unocal and others. The deployment of NATO troops along the proposed route of the pipeline is perhaps an accident. But then again, perhaps not. Turkmenistan has the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world. The Taliban who were once given the task of securing the territory for the proposed pipeline are now the people preventing it. That could change of course. Washington has more than one strategy for hegemony. Should the Republic of Iran fall into US hands, then the pipeline through Afghanistan becomes unnecessary as it was originally designed to circumvent Iran. Unocal (now merged with Chevron) and other companies may deny that the pipeline idea has been revived but the government in Kabul has other ideas. The warlords of the Northern Alliance are busy carving up the future profits for themselves. Unocal-cheveron is part of the BTC consortium that has just finished building a massive pipeline from the Caspian to the Med. In Burma the company was part of another consortium that hired the Burmese military to protect its Yadana pipeline from 'insurgents and terrorists'. Pipelines can be the only reason why the west is so insistent on having NATO in Afghanistan.
John Flynn (1944) quoted by Monbiot: “The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilize savage and senile and paranoidal peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.