The war in Afghanistan is a means to another end
by Firoz Osman, The Mail & Guardian, 4 December 2001
It is becoming more apparent that the war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with terrorism, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban or the World Trade Centre.
Realpolitik, the need and greed for oil and gas are, once again, the source of misery and tragedy. This time it is happening in central Asia, just as it was in Iraq.
In his book Unholy Wars [1, 2] ABC news correspondent John K Cooley reveals the intentions of the United States and multinational oil companies to establish pipelines to route the oil and natural gas of Central Asia and the Caspian Basin to the West.
To this end the aims of the generals of the Pakistani ISI (Inter- Services Intelligence) and their American counterparts, the CIA, converged. They saw in the Taliban the means by which they could achieve their objectives.
In 1993 Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an agreement to jointly develop their energy resources and build a pipeline between the two countries. A company called Unocal, based in California, signed a protocol with the Turkmen government to explore the feasibility of building this pipeline.
The one-year study cost $10-million for a huge energy project worth $18-billion, to transport Turkmen oil and gas by pipeline to the Indian Ocean. This trade and energy would run through Pakistan, America's ally, rather than through Iran, her adversary ever since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. This will also bypass Iranian ambitions to channel Turkmen energy.
A further objective of both the Taliban and Pakistan is the recovery of natural gas from northern Afghanistan's Shibergan province, pumped northward to Russia through Uzbekistan. Afghan estimates of the resources in the Shibergan gas fields run to 1100-billion cubic meters. Export of the gas continued throughout the war between 1979 and 1989, despite periodic sabotage orchestrated by the CIA and ISI.
Corroborating Cooley's findings, a book has just been published in Paris entitled Bin Laden, La Verite Interdite (Bin Laden, the Forbidden Truth) [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. The book claims that the Bush administration held extensive talks with the Taliban regime from February to August this year with the aim of securing control over the vast oil and gas reserves in Central Asia through the construction of an oil pipeline from the rich oil fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakstan, to Afghanistan, Pakistan and on to the Indian Ocean.
The authors, Jean Charles Brisard and Guiliaume Dasquie -- who have long experience in intelligence analysis -- claim that if the Taliban had facilitated the construction of the pipeline and US control over Central Asian oil and gas reserves, the US would have paved the way for economic assistance to, and political recognition of, the Taliban.
The Taliban's unwillingness to accept US conditions frustrated the Americans. According to the author: "At one moment during the negotiations the US representatives told the Taliban 'either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs'."
It is well established that the Bush administration, and President George W Bush's family in particular, have strong oil corporate links. Vice-president Dick Cheney was until the end of last year president of Halliburton, a company that provides services for the oil industry. National security advisor Condoleeza Rice was a manager for Chevron between 1991 and last year, while commerce secretary Donald Evans and energy secretary Stanley Abraham worked for oil giant Tom Brown.
As journalist John Pilger asserted, the Taliban were trained and supported by the CIA and SAS, Britain's intelligence agency. Soon after their takeover of Kabul in 1996, their leaders were entertained by the executives of Unocal in Houston, Texas.
With secret US government approval, the company offered them a generous cut of the profits of the oil and gas pumped through the pipeline that the Americans wanted to build from Soviet Central Asia through Afghanistan. A US diplomat said: "The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did." He explained that "Afghanistan will become a US oil colony; there would be huge profits for the West, no democracy and the legal persecution of women. We can live with that."
Although the deal fell through, it still remains an urgent priority of the Bush administration. The Caspian Basin has the greatest source of untapped fossil fuel on earth and enough, according to one estimate, to meet the US's voracious energy needs for generations. Only if the pipeline runs through Afghanistan can the US hope to control it.
Not surprisingly US Secretary of State Colin Powell is now referring to the "moderate" Taliban, who will join a US-sponsored "loose federation" to run Afghanistan. The "war on terrorism" is a cover for this. It is a means of achieving strategic aims that lie behind the flag-waving facade.
If the allegations and arguments contained in Unholy Wars and Bin Laden, The Forbidden Truth are true, it raises some fundamental questions about he US bombing of Afghanistan, and indeed, about the September 11 tragedy itself. Is oil the ulterior motive, the hidden agenda, behind the assault upon Afghanistan? Is the attack a vile attempt to gain control of the country and establish a pliant regime in Kabul, which will enable Washington to extend its tentacles over Central Asia and its oil wealth?
The world has the right to know the truth -- for the sake of the innocent people who are being slaughtered in Afghanistan, and for the sake of the thousands who were killed in New York and Washington on September 11.
Dr Firoz Osman is the secretary of the Media Review Network, an advocacy group based in Pretoria.
© 2001 The Mail & Guardian
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.