Having accomplished their general goals in Iraq, I expect the imperial aspects of U.S. foreign policy to focus more on strategies laid out in the 1998 book "The Grand Chessboard", by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's National Security Adviser and Obama confidant. Namely, securing American control of the oil and natural gas resources in Central Asia and the Caucasus. This strategy is also a focus of conservative groups such as the Project for a New American Century. It is not a "conspiracy theory" - it is an often and publicly discussed plan that has included the top policy makers of both parties since the fall of the Soviet Union.
A key component of this strategy was the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is owned by major Western corporations such as BP and Chevron, in partnership with Caucas countries such as Azjerbaijan. The goal in building the pipeline was to circumvent Russia, and its control of Central Asian oil and gas exports:
The first exports from the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) gas pipeline reached their destinations in 2006.
With the construction of these routes, Russia's hold over Azerbaijani oil and gas -- and monopoly on Caspian energy export routes-- was broken.
Federico Bordonaro, from the Italy-based energy analysis group equilibri.net, says that Russia was not happy about the new pipelines.
"We have to remember that Russia has always fiercely opposed the realization of the BTC because it reduces its leverage toward the West when it comes to the transportation of Caspian resources toward the West," Bordonaro says.
The U.S. policy in Central Asia going forward seems poised to become more aggressive, given the relative calming of Iraq. This is made more true since it is the military realm, not economic, that is a bastion of American strategic dominance. Though technically not in Central Asia, but bordering it, I would place the repeated drone attacks on Pakistan in this category. While militarily worthless, they do have the "value" of destabilizing and putting pressure on their government. Pakistan has traditionally been a 'neutral' country in the political battles between the West, Russia, and the East. For instance, it collaborated on a deep sea port project with China, a key part of China's 'string of pearls' strategy. Now that Pakistan is on an IMF loan, and its government disintegrating, Washington will have the ability to exert greater leverage.
From "The Grand Chessboard" :
"America is now the only global superpower, and Eurasia is the globe's central arena. Hence, what happens to the distribution of power on the Eurasian continent will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy and to America's historical legacy." (p.194)
Proven Reserves of Oil, and Natural Gas (Billions of Barrels)
Oil and Gas Journal
Kazakhastan: 30, 67
Uzbekistan: 1 , 62
Turkmenistan: 1 , 94
Azerbijian: 7 , 45
Europe: 14, 218
United States 21, 237