Anno 1997: Taliban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline

The 1,300km pipeline will carry gas across Afghanistan’s harsh terrain
A senior delegation from the Taliban movement in Afghanistan is in the United States for talks with an international energy company that wants to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan.

A spokesman for the company, Unocal, said the Taliban were expected to spend several days at the company’s headquarters in Sugarland, Texas. Unocal says it has agreements both with Turkmenistan to sell its gas and with Pakistan to buy it.

The Afghan economy has been devasted by 20 years of civil war
But, despite the civil war in Afghanistan, Unocal has been in competition with an Argentinian firm, Bridas, to actually construct the pipeline.

1997:  Last month, the Argentinian firm, Bridas, announced that it was close to signing a two-billion dollar deal to build the pipeline, which would carry gas 1,300 kilometres from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, across Afghanistan.

In May, Taliban-controlled radio in Kabul said a visiting delegation from an Argentinian company had announced that pipeline construction would start “soon”.


The radio has reported several visits to Kabul by Unocal and Bridas company officials over the past few months.

A BBC regional correspondent says the proposal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan is part of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea.

With the various Afghan factions still at war, the project has looked from the outside distinctly unpromising.

Last month the Taliban Minister of Information and Culture, Amir Khan Muttaqi, said the Taliban had held talks with both American and Argentine-led consortia over transit rights but that no final agreement had yet been reached. He said an official team from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan should meet to ensure each country benefited from any deal.

However, Unocal clearly believes it is still in with a chance – to the extent that it has already begun training potential staff.

It has commissioned the University of Nebraska to teach Afghan men the technical skills needed for pipeline construction. Nearly 140 people were enrolled last month in Kandahar and Unocal also plans to hold training courses for women in administrative skills.

Although the Taliban authorities only allow women to work in the health sector, organisers of the training say they haven’t so far raised any objections.

The BBC regional correspondent says the Afghan economy has been devastated by 20 years of civil war. A deal to go ahead with the pipeline project could give it a desperately-needed boost.

But peace must be established first — and that for the moment still seems a distant prospect.
(BBC News)

From the 1998 Congressional Record.
Emphasis added to text.


FEBRUARY 12, 1998

Next we would like to hear from Mr. John J. Maresca, vice president of international relations, Unocal Corporation. You may proceed as you wish.


Mr. Maresca. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s nice to see you again. I am John Maresca, vice president for international relations of the Unocal Corporation. Unocal, as you know, is one of the world’s leading energy resource and project development companies. I appreciate your invitation to speak here today. I believe these hearings are important and timely. I congratulate you for focusing on Central Asia oil and gas reserves and the role they play in shaping U.S. policy.

I would like to focus today on three issues. First, the need for multiple pipeline routes for Central Asian oil and gas resources. Second, the need for U.S. support for international and regional efforts to achieve balanced and lasting political settlements to the conflicts in the region, including Afghanistan. Third, the need for structured assistance to encourage economic reforms and the development of appropriate investment climates in the region. In this regard, we specifically support repeal or removal of section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.

Mr. Chairman, the Caspian region contains tremendous untapped hydrocarbon reserves. Just to give an idea of the scale, proven natural gas reserves equal more than 236 trillion cubic feet. The region’s total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels. In 1995, the region was producing only 870,000 barrels per day. By 2010, western companies could increase production to about 4.5 million barrels a day, an increase of more than 500 percent in only 15 years. If this occurs, the region would represent about 5 percent of the world’s total oil production.

One major problem has yet to be resolved: how to get the region’s vast energy resources to the markets where they are needed. Central Asia is isolated. Their natural resources are land locked, both geographically and politically. Each of the countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia faces difficult political challenges. Some have unsettled wars or latent conflicts. Others have evolving systems where the laws and even the courts are dynamic and changing. In addition, a chief technical obstacle which we in the industry face in transporting oil is the region’s existing pipeline infrastructure.

Because the region’s pipelines were constructed during the Moscow-centered Soviet period, they tend to head north and west toward Russia. There are no connections to the south and east. But Russia is currently unlikely to absorb large new quantities of foreign oil. It’s unlikely to be a significant market for new energy in the next decade. It lacks the capacity to deliver it to other markets.

Two major infrastructure projects are seeking to meet the need for additional export capacity. One, under the aegis of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, plans to build a pipeline west from the northern Caspian to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. Oil would then go by tanker through the Bosporus to the Mediterranean and world markets.

The other project is sponsored by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, a consortium of 11 foreign oil companies, including four American companies, Unocal, Amoco, Exxon and Pennzoil. This consortium conceives of two possible routes, one line would angle north and cross the north Caucasus to Novorossiysk. The other route would cross Georgia to a shipping terminal on the Black Sea. This second route could be extended west and south across Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

But even if both pipelines were built, they would not have enough total capacity to transport all the oil expected to flow from the region in the future. Nor would they have the capability to move it to the right markets. Other export pipelines must be built.

At Unocal, we believe that the central factor in planning these pipelines should be the location of the future energy markets that are most likely to need these new supplies. Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union are all slow growth markets where demand will grow at only a half a percent to perhaps 1.2 percent per year during the period 1995 to 2010.

Asia is a different story all together. It will have a rapidly increasing energy consumption need. Prior to the recent turbulence in the Asian Pacific economies, we at Unocal anticipated that this region’s demand for oil would almost double by 2010. Although the short-term increase in demand will probably not meet these expectations, we stand behind our long-term estimates.

I should note that it is in everyone’s interest that there be adequate supplies for Asia’s increasing energy requirements. If Asia’s energy needs are not satisfied, they will simply put pressure on all world markets, driving prices upwards everywhere.

The key question then is how the energy resources of Central Asia can be made available to nearby Asian markets. There are two possible solutions, with several variations. One option is to go east across China, but this would mean constructing a pipeline of more than 3,000 kilometers just to reach Central China. In addition, there would have to be a 2,000-kilometer connection to reach the main population centers along the coast. The question then is what will be the cost of transporting oil through this pipeline, and what would be the netback which the producers would receive.

For those who are not familiar with the terminology, the netback is the price which the producer receives for his oil or gas at the well head after all the transportation costs have been deducted. So it’s the price he receives for the oil he produces at the well head.

The second option is to build a pipeline south from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean. One obvious route south would cross Iran, but this is foreclosed for American companies because of U.S. sanctions legislation. The only other possible route is across Afghanistan, which has of course its own unique challenges. The country has been involved in bitter warfare for almost two decades, and is still divided by civil war. From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, we have worked very closely with the University of Nebraska at Omaha in developing a training program for Afghanistan which will be open to both men and women, and which will operate in both parts of the country, the north and south.

Unocal foresees a pipeline which would become part of a regional system that will gather oil from existing pipeline infrastructure in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. The 1,040-mile long oil pipeline would extend south through Afghanistan to an export terminal that would be constructed on the Pakistan coast. This 42-inch diameter pipeline will have a shipping capacity of one million barrels of oil per day. The estimated cost of the project, which is similar in scope to the trans-Alaska pipeline, is about $2.5 billion.

Given the plentiful natural gas supplies of Central Asia, our aim is to link gas resources with the nearest viable markets. This is basic for the commercial viability of any gas project. But these projects also face geopolitical challenges. Unocal and the Turkish company Koc Holding are interested in bringing competitive gas supplies to Turkey. The proposed Eurasia natural gas pipeline would transport gas from Turkmenistan directly across the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey. Of course the demarcation of the Caspian remains an issue.

Last October, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline Consortium, called CentGas, in which Unocal holds an interest, was formed to develop a gas pipeline which will link Turkmenistan’s vast Dauletabad gas field with markets in Pakistan and possibly India. The proposed 790-mile pipeline will open up new markets for this gas, traveling from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Multan in Pakistan. The proposed extension would move gas on to New Delhi, where it would connect with an existing pipeline. As with the proposed Central Asia oil pipeline, CentGas can not begin construction until an internationally recognized Afghanistan Government is in place.

The Central Asia and Caspian region is blessed with abundant oil and gas that can enhance the lives of the region’s residents, and provide energy for growth in both Europe and Asia. The impact of these resources on U.S. commercial interests and U.S. foreign policy is also significant. Without peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the region, cross-border oil and gas pipelines are not likely to be built. We urge the Administration and the Congress to give strong support to the U.N.-led peace process in Afghanistan. The U.S. Government should use its influence to help find solutions to all of the region’s conflicts.

U.S. assistance in developing these new economies will be crucial to business success. We thus also encourage strong technical assistance programs throughout the region. Specifically, we urge repeal or removal of section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. This section unfairly restricts U.S. Government assistance to the government of Azerbaijan and limits U.S. influence in the region.

Developing cost-effective export routes for Central Asian resources is a formidable task, but not an impossible one. Unocal and other American companies like it are fully prepared to undertake the job and to make Central Asia once again into the crossroads it has been in the past. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Friday, 27 December, 2002, 11:23 GMT

Central Asia pipeline deal signed

By Ian McWilliam
BBC correspondent in Kabul

An agreement has been signed in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, paving the way for construction of a gas pipeline from the Central Asian republic through Afghanistan to Pakistan.


The project has been around for some years

The building of the trans-Afghanistan pipeline has been under discussion for some years but plans have been held up by Afghanistan’s unstable political situation.

This follows a summit meeting bringing together the presidents of the three countries last May when the project received formal go-ahead.

The pipeline would represent the first major foreign investment in Afghanistan in many years.

Alternate route

With improved regional security after the fall of the Taleban about a year ago, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan have decided to push ahead with plans for the ambitious 1,500-kilometre-long gas pipeline.

President Karzai (R) with Foreign Minister Abdullah (L) and Pakistani Foreign Minister KM Kasuri (seated)

Pakistan will be the terminus for the pipeline

The leaders of the three countries have now signed a framework agreement defining the legal aspects of setting up a consortium to build and operate the pipeline.

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline would export Turkmen gas via Afghanistan to Pakistani ports, from where it could reach world markets.

India is the largest potential buyer and the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, said Delhi was welcome to join the project.

Turkmenistan has some of the world’s greatest reserves of natural gas, but still relies on tightly controlled Russian pipelines to export it.

Ashgabat has long been desperate to find an alternative export route.

Wary investors

Afghanistan would profit by receiving millions of dollars in transit fees and construction of the pipeline would provide thousands of desperately needed jobs.

It is also hoped such a project would boost regional economic ties and pave the way for further foreign investment.

The chief difficulty will be actually finding the money to build the pipeline.

The Asian Development Bank is carrying out a study for the project.

But investors will be very cautious about putting serious money into Afghanistan when the central government in Kabul still has only limited influence in the regions the pipeline would cross.

Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 16:05 GMTA

War for the pipelines?

Some commentators have asked if it’s all about oil
By the BBC World at One programme’s Andrew NorthJust four years ago Taleban officials were at the Texas headquarters of the US energy company Unocal to discuss building a gas pipeline across Afghanistan to Pakistan.
We’re hostage to oil, that’s as simple as you can put it. We have let the economic considerations take precedence
Larry Johnson – Former CIA officer
The discussions did not get far and the project was abandoned the following year after the US launched cruise missile strikes against Afghanistan – part of an earlier assault on Osama Bin Laden.
But some say the current military campaign has a hidden objective – to revive that pipeline and open the way for US companies to build further facilities to carry central Asian oil. If the US has an oil and energy agenda in its war on terrorism, it is not in Central Asia.
Fuelling the war
Some oil experts have dismissed the notion of a hidden proposal outright.
Oil may not be driving this war, but it is a crucial issue”There was discussion of the pipeline to carry gas to Pakistan, but it was abandoned way before current events because of political, economic and stability problems,” said Paul Stevens, professor of petroleum policy and economics at Dundee University. “So the idea that oil is now driving this war is totally unrealistic. It would be more sensible to be considering a pipeline on the moon.” But oil is nonetheless becoming an issue in this conflict in another way: the growing concerns about the future security of supplies from the world’s key oil-producer, Saudi Arabia.
Saudi supplies
In the home of Islam’s two holiest places, there is widespread sympathy for Osama bin Laden’s aims as well as opposition to the US strikes, and that has left the traditionally pro-western royal family exposed. But the crisis means Saudi Arabia is more important than ever for the stability of world oil supplies. Even before the events of 11 September, energy security was a concern for President Bush. Now the administration is considering moves such as boosting America’s strategic oil reserves.
The crisis means Saudi Arabian oil is more important than ever
And it could decide to give the go-ahead to controversial plans to expand oil drilling in Alaska. But even if this happens, this new oil won’t be sufficient to replace imports – which account for more than half of America’s needs. “Its own drilling output is dwindling and Alaska wouldn’t replace it,” said Leo Drollas, chief economist at the Centre for Global Energy Studies. “The key thing is Saudi’s spare capacity – 51 per cent of the world total – and that would be even more important if the US decided to expand war to attack Iraq, thereby almost inevitably leading to Baghdad suspending exports.” Treading carefully Such concerns have made the Bush administration very careful in what it has said about the Saudi government, despite anger in some US military and intelligence circles over allegations that the monarchy turned a blind eye to fundraising for Osama bin Laden within the kingdom.
Baghdad would likely suspend imports if the US attacked
“We’re hostage to oil, that’s as simple as you can put it. We have let the economic considerations take precedence,” said Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer with close links to serving intelligence officials. Some say this crisis should be the spur for the US and other Western nations to make more use of renewable and other energy sources, to reduce their reliance on oil. But that will not happen overnight and in the meantime, the more pessimistic say the US has to be ready for the possibility of serious disruption to oil supplies because of instability in Saudi Arabia. One senior military figure who has served in top posts in previous administrations told the BBC that if this were to happen, the US would be prepared to send in its forces to take control of the oil fields.

Chevron made a historic deal with Kazakhstan to develop the oil and gas fields in a Central Asian Country in 1993.  Both Dick Cheney and Condoliza Rice have been instrumental in these dealings.  The energy in this region is land locked.  Afghanistan was the best route for pipelines to get the energy out to the Arabian Sea and over to Pakistan and India

ENRON ties in because Enrons Flagship Project in Dabhol India was a huge gas fired power plant that couldn’t run without natural gas from these pipeline projects. Enron was also involved in getting the energy out of Central Asian countries.

Interesting note: a Chevron oil tanker was named “The Condoleeza Rice” until she was put in charge of the National Security Agency in 2001.

Here’s a summary of FACTS that connect September 11th to Energy

The Importance of Afghanistan

Afghanistan the “best route for a critical pipeline (which Oil Companies and Enron required)
The Taliban being invited to Texas in 1997 to negotiate this pipeline deal.
Corporate and government support given to the Taliban so they could control Afghanistan and stabilize the pipeline route.

Oil Companies and Current Administartion Officials Involved Long Term

Historic energy deals since 1993 in the ‘stans with both Chevron (Chevron-Texaco) Enron and CentGas trying to get the “land locked” oil and gas out of the ‘stans.
Cheney and Rice both instrumental in setting up Chevrons famous deal.
Cheney on the Kazakhstan Oil Advisory Board
Cheney CEO of Haliburton (an oil and military service giant)
Chevron so pleased they named an oil tanker after Condoleeza Rice.

Oil Company Accused of Financing and Helping the Terrorists

Amerada Hess (US)  & Delta Oil (Saudi Arabia) aka partnered to finance this trans afghan pipeline.
The owner of Delta Oil accused of financing terrorists.
The Director of Hess (Thomas Kean) appointed as Chair of the 9/11 Commission

The Historic 600 Billion Dollar Oil Deals – Pipelines through Afghanistan at any cost?

April 1993, Chevron concluded a historic $20 billion, 50/50 joint venture deal with Kazakhstan to create the TENGIZCHEVOIL joint venture to develop the Tengiz oil field, estimated to contain 6-9 billion barrels of oil. [DOE/EIA Reports on the Caspian – May 17, 2000 – Page 9]

November 18-20, 1993: Stalinist party boss, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan visited Washington and Houston November 18-20 and signed contracts with Texaco, Mobil, Chevron and other US oil companies which are worth a staggering $600 billion over the next 40 years During his Washington visit, Nazarbayev was honored at a private dinner in the exclusive Metropolitan Club, hosted by longtime democratic Party wheeler-dealer Robert Strauss, (of Law Firm: Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld) and attended by oil company CEOs, Vernon Jordan, Energy Secretary Federico Pena, and media personalities like Sam Donaldson–who led the toast to Nazarbayev–and William Safire. [Sagebrush Saloon – Chevrons War]

November 1993: The Indian government approves Enron’s Dabhol power plant, located near Bombay on the west coast of India. Enron has invested $3 billion, the largest single foreign investment in India’s history. Enron owns 65% of Dabhol. This liquefied natural gas powered plant is supposed to provide one-fifth of India’s energy needs by 1997. [Asia Times, 1/81/01, Indian Express, 2/27/00] (Capacity over 2000 MegaWatts) (This power plant was built without a source of energy to run it. State Department and Council on Foreign Relations show the trans afghan pipeline headed towards it through Pakistan).

October 21, 1995: The oil company Unocal signs a contract with Turkmenistan to export $8 billion worth of natural gas through a $3 billion pipeline which would go from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. Political considerations and pressures allow Unocal to edge out a more experienced Argentinean company for the contract. Henry Kissinger, a Unocal consultant, calls it “the triumph of hope over experience.” [Washington Post, 10/5/98]

June 24, 1996: The Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan signs a deal with Enron “that could lead to joint development of the central Asian nation’s potentially rich natural gas fields.” [Houston Chronicle, 6/25/96] The $1.3 billion venture teams Enron with the state companies of Russian and Uzbekistan. [Houston Chronicle, 6/30/96]

July 8, 1996: The US government agrees to give $400 million to help Enron and a Uzbeki state company develop natural gas fields in the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan. [Oil and Gas Journal, 7/8/96]

August 13, 1996: Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia come to agreement with state companies in Turkmenistan and Russia to to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan. [Unocal website, 8/13/96]

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Why were the Taliban invited guests to Texas in 1997?

Let the News Articles Provide the Answers

December 4, 1997: Representatives of the Taliban are invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. (Bill Clinton is President & George W. Bush is Governor of Texas at the time.) The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials, and the Telegraph reports that “the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children ‘despicable,’ appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.” A BBC regional correspondent says “the proposal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan is part of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea.” [BBC, 12/4/97, Telegraph, 12/14/97] FTW

Unocal, the Houston-based company bidding to build the 876-mile pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, invited the Taliban to visit them in Texas…The men, who are accustomed to life without heating, electricity or running water, were amazed by the luxurious homes of Texan oil barons. The hardline fundamentalists – who have banned women from working and girls from going to school – asked Mr Miller about his Christmas tree.” The Taliban met with State Department officials during the visit. [The Taliban, the US and the Resources of Central Asia]

News articles clearly state that Unocal brought the Taliban to Texas for pipeline negotiations.

Why were Oil Companies, Unocal, Enron, the U.S. and other governments helping the Taliban?

September 1995: After suffering military reversals in mid-1995, the Taliban re-armed and reorganised with Pakistani assistance and in September 1995 entered Herat, effectively clearing the road from Pakistan to Central Asia. The following month, Unocal signed its pipeline deal with Turkmenistan. [The Taliban, the US and the resources of Central Asia]

March 1996, US senator Hank Brown, a supporter of the Unocal project, visited Kabul and other Afghan cities. He met with the Taliban and invited them to send delegates to a Unocal-funded conference on Afghanistan in the US. In the same month, the US also exerted pressure on the Pakistani government to ditch its arrangements with Bridas and back the American company.{The Taliban the US and the Resources of Central Asia]

Here’s the answer to the question from above

September 27, 1996: The Taliban conquer Kabul [AP, 8/19/02], establishing control over much of Afghanistan. The oil company Unocal is hopeful that the Taliban will stabilize Afghanistan, and allow its (gas) pipeline plans to go forward. In fact, “preliminary agreement [on the pipeline] was reached between the [Taliban and Unocal] long before the fall of Kabul.” “Oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America’s, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan.” [Telegraph, 10/11/96]

October 1997 Unocal set up the Central Asian Gas Pipeline (CentGas) consortium to build the (natural gas) pipeline. Construction was scheduled to begin in 1998. [DOE/EIA Reports on the Caspian 5/17/00 Page 64]

October 27, 1997: Halliburton, (Dick Cheney as CEO) announces a new agreement to provide technical services and drilling for Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia. The press release also mentions that “Halliburton has been providing a variety of services in Turkmenistan for the past five years.” On the same day, a consortium to build a pipeline through Afghanistan is formed. It’s called CentGas, and the two main partners are Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia. [Halliburton press release, 10/27/97, CentGas press release, 10/27/97]

December 14, 1997: Unocal has hired the University of Nebraska to train 400 Afghani teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipefitters in anticipation of using them for their pipeline in Afghanistan. 150 students are already attending classes.  Unocal, with the support of Washington, continued to actively woo the Taliban leaders who, in an effort to obtain the most lucrative deal, were playing the American company off against Bridas. Unocal provided nearly $1 million to set up the Centre for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Omaha as a front for an aid program in Taliban-held Kandahar. The main outcome of the company’s “aid” was a school to train the pipefitters, electricians and carpenters needed to construct its pipelines.   [Telegraph, 12/14/97 , The Taliban, the US and the Resources of Central Asia]

Why did the V.P. of an oil company (and Future Ambassador to Afghanistan) asks Congress for a Regime Change in Afghanistan in 1998? (Why was he later appointed as Special Ambassador to Afghanistan)

February 12, 1998: Unocal Vice President John J. Maresca – (later to become a Special Ambassador to Afghanistan) – testifies before the House of representatives that until a single, unified, friendly government is in place in Afghanistan the trans-Afghani pipeline will not be built. He suggests that with a pipeline through Afghanistan, the Caspian basin could produce 20 percent of all the non-OPEC oil in the world by 2010. [House International Relations Committee testimony, 2/12/98] FTW John J. Maresca clearly stating that the Taliban government should be removed and replaced by a government acceptable to his company. He argued that creation of a 42 inch pipeline across Afghanistan would yield a Western profit increase of 500% by 2015.

Early 1998: Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul (all such meetings are technically illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan). US officials at the time call the pipeline project a “fabulous opportunity” and are especially motivated by the “prospect of circumventing Iran, which offered another route for the pipeline.” [Boston Globe, 9/20/01]

March 1998 Unocal announced a delay in finalizing the pipeline project due to Afghanistan’s continuing civil war []

What Was Dick Cheney’s Role ?
Was Enron in trouble because the situation in Afghanistan delayed the pipeline?
Was the historic Chevron-Kazakhstan deal in trouble because they couldn’t get the energy out through Afghanistan?

June 1998: Businessweek reported that Dick Cheney (CEO of Halliburton) had been “courting politicians and business leaders through the booming Caspian Sea region in an all-out effort to secure key political ties with Azerbaijan and Kazakstan. Accounting for the world’s third-largest oil reserves, the region is Cheney’s best hope to secure big contracts for a long time to come.”  Dick Cheney helped broker the Chevron-Kazakhstan deal when he sat on the Kazakhstan Oil Advisory Board in the mid-’90s (Business Week 1998, Amarillo Globe-News, June 13, 1998)

June 1998 (B): Enron’s agreement to develop natural gas with the government of Uzbekistan is not renewed. Enron closes its office there. The reason for the “failure of Enron’s flagship project” (a massive electric power plant in Dabhol India) , is the inability to get natural gas out of the region. The hope was to use a pipeline through Afghanistan, but “Uzbekistan is extremely concerned at the growing strength of the Taliban and its potential impact on stability in Uzbekistan, making any future cooperation on a pipeline project which benefits the Taliban unlikely.” A $12 billion pipeline through China is being considered as one solution, but that wouldn’t be completed until the end of the next decade at the earliest. [Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections, 10/12/98]

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Did the terrorist attacks and Clintons response hurt the energy projects financially?

August 7, 1998: Terrorists bomb the US embassies in Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). The bomb in Nairobi, Kenya kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. The bomb in Dar es Salaam kills 11 and injures 85. The attack is blamed on al-Qaeda. [PBS Frontline, 2001]

August 9, 1998: The Taliban, have control over 90% of Afghanistan, including the entire pipeline route. CentGas, the consortium behind the gas pipeline that would run through Afghanistan, is now “ready to proceed. ” However, the pipeline cannot be financed unless the government is officially recognized. “Diplomatic sources said the Taliban’s offensive was well prepared and deliberately scheduled two months ahead of the next UN meeting” to decide if the Taliban should be recognized. [Telegraph, 8/13/98]

Aug. 20, 1998 Clinton ordered cruise missile attacks (75-80) on Afghanistan and Sudan targets–after bomb attacks on embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam [The US] blamed the bombings on Osama bin Laden, the former Saudi who it accuses of backing many attacks on US targets.

August 22, 1998: Unocal announced that CentGas had not secured the financing necessary to begin the work, and on August 22, 1998, Unocal suspended construction plans due to the continuing civil war in Afghanistan. Unocal stressed that the pipeline project would not proceed until an internationally recognized government was in place in Afghanistan. While the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan, as well as the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan, have continued discussions on the route, there does not seem to be any near-term likelihood that it will be built. (DOE/EIA Reports on the Caspian 5/17/00 Page 64)

Why did the Clinton administration stop U.S. support of the pipeline project and tell the oil companies, you’re on your own?

December 5, 1998: In the wake of the al-Qaeda US embassy attacks, the US gives up on putting a pipeline through Afghanistan. Unocal announces it’s withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. A concern that Clinton will lose support among women voters for upholding the Taliban also plays a role in the cancellation. [New York Times, 12/5/98] FTW

Feb 1999: “The one serious drawback companies have faced is getting the supplies to the right market, the energy-hungry Asian Pacific economies. Afghanistan—the only country with little oil—is by far the best route to transport the oil to Asia.    Enron, the biggest contributor to the Bush-Cheney campaign of 2000, conducted the feasibility study for a US$2.5 billion trans-Caspian gas pipeline which is being built under a joint venture agreement signed in February 1999 between Turkmenistan, Bechtel and General Electric Capital Services.”

April 30, 1999: Afghanistan, Pakistan, & Turkmenistan reactivated the gas pipeline project excluding (Unocal / CentGas) US interests

Oct 1999 – The Department of Defense (DOD) reassigned senior command authority over American forces in Central Asia from the Pacific Command to the Central Command. Central Asia had once been viewed as a peripheral concern, a remote edge of the Pacific Command’s main areas of responsibility (China, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula). But the region, which stretches from the Ural Mountains to China’s western border, has now become a major strategic prize, because of the vast reserves of oil and natural gas thought to lie under and around the Caspian Sea. Since the Central Command already controls the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region, its assumption of control over Central Asia means that this area will now receive close attention from the people whose primary task is to protect the flow of oil to the United States and its allies. Michael Klare (Foreign Affairs May/June 2001 ).

December 20, 1999: The BBC explains one reason why the Northern Alliance has been able to hold out for so long in its civil war against the Taliban in Afghanistan: “Iran has stirred up the fighting in order to make sure an international oil pipeline [goes] through its territory and not through Afghanistan.” [BBC, 12/20/99]
Why did Enron support Bush in the 2000 Presidential Election?

April 1999 Ken Lay sends letters to executives asking for contributions to the Bush campaign, including what some call a menacing reference to compensation as highly paid employees. More than 100 other Enron executives, and many spouses, will give “hard money” contributions to Bush, much of it during the campaign’s critical early money phase. Some will acknowledge in interviews that they gave solely because they got Lay’s pointed letter. The contributions help Lay fulfill his commitment as a Bush “Pioneer,” the campaign’s term for its top rainmakers. Bush will collect nearly $114,000 in individual and political action committee contributions from Enron in 1999-2000 (“Hard Money, Strong Arms And ‘Matrix'”, )

July 4, 1999: With the chances of a pipeline deal with the Taliban looking increasingly unlikely, the US government (Clinton) finally issues an executive order prohibiting commercial transactions with the Taliban. [Executive Order, 7/4/99]

September 3, 1999: The spread of Islamic fundamentalist insurgency north from Afghanistan threatens the rich oil resources of the Caspian Basin, which multinational corporations hope to massively exploit in the 21st century. The key contract was signed between Kazakhstan and Chevron in 1993, granting the company a stake in all oil development there (RFE Newsline, Sept. 3, 1999).

April 17, 2000: Although the Taliban control 95% of Afghan territory, only the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia had recognized the Taliban government as of late 1998. Afghan support for Osama bin Laden, and the recent U.S. bombing raids on his suspected strongholds in Afghanistan, also have reduced the likelihood for international financing of the project.” (DOE/EIA Reports on the Caspian 5/17/00)

Why did Bush Administration Meet with the Taliban after the 2000 election?

February 9, 2001:  Bush has been in office a matter of days, when secret pipeline negotiations with the Taliban have begun. The new administration has already twice threatened the Taliban that the US would hold the Taliban responsible for any al-Qaeda attack. But, fearful of ending those negotiations, the US does not retaliate against either the Taliban or known bin Laden bases in Afghanistan in the manner Clinton did in 1998. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]

April 2001 (D): A report commission by former US Secretary of State James Baker entitled “Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century” is submitted to Vice President Cheney this month. The report says the “central dilemma” for the US administration is that “the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience.” “the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma,” “need for military intervention” to secure its oil supply. It argues that Iraq needs to be overthrown so the US can control its oil. [Sunday Herald, 10/5/02] the US should “Investigate whether any changes to US policy would quickly facilitate higher exports of oil from the Caspian Basin region… the exports from some oil discoveries in the Caspian Basin could be hastened if a secure, economical export route could be identified swiftly.” [Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century, 4/01]

“Anticipated growth in the use of natural gas–in considerable part engendered as a fuel for electric power stations–raises a new series of geopolitical issues, leading to new political alignment” — “The potential for armed conflict in energy-producing regions will remain high. Early in the twenty-first century, as a result, a weakening of U.S.alliance relationships in Europe, the PersianGulf, or Asia could have major impacts on global energy security. U.S.concerns over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the desire to promote democratization and market liberalization around theWorld will also have a significant effect on key energy exporters. The future viability of the energy-producing states in the Caspian and Central Asia will be shaped by the competing objectives or Interests of Russia, the United States, and adjacent regional powers.” [quotes from Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century]

May 15, 2001 Regarding the placement of the Unocal Pipeline, a U.S. Official delivered this ultimatum to the Taliban (via the Pakistani delegation acting as their interlocutors): “Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.” (Ref: Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie in “Forbidden Truth”) (Book’s Preface online-pdf format)

The Taliban visits to Washington continued up to a few months prior to the September 11 attacks. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s South Asian Division maintained constant satellite telephone contact with the Taliban in Kandahar and Kabul. Washington permitted the Taliban to maintain a diplomatic office in Queens, New York headed by Taliban diplomat Abdul Hakim Mojahed. In addition, U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca, who is also a former CIA officer, visited Taliban diplomatic officials in Islamabad. [The Blacklisted Journalist 4/1/02]

August 2, 2001: Christina Rocca, the Director of Asian Affairs at the State Department, secretly meets the Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, apparently in a last ditch attempt to secure a pipeline deal. Rocca was previously in charge of contacts with Islamic guerrilla groups at the CIA, and oversaw the delivery of Stinger missiles to Afghan mujaheddin in the 1980’s. [Irish Times, 11/19/01, Salon, 2/8/02, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)] FTW

September 9, 2001: A plan to remove al-Qaeda from the face of the Earth” is placed on Bush’s desk for his signature. The plan deals with all aspects of a war against al-Qaeda, ranging from diplomatic initiatives to a military invasion in Afghanistan. According to NBC News reporter Jim Miklaszewski, the “directive outlines essentially the same war plan … put into action after the Sept. 11 attacks. The administration most likely was able to respond so quickly to the attacks because it simply had to pull the plans ‘off the shelf.'” Bush was expected to sign it but still hadn’t done so by 9/11. Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, has stated, “You show me one reporter, one commentator, one member of Congress who thought we should invade Afghanistan before September 11 and I’ll buy you dinner in the best restaurant in New York City.” In

September 11, 2001:  Four planes are hijacked, two crash into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and one crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. At least 3,000 people are killed.

October 7, 2001: Military operations with aerial bombardment began in Afghanistan [CNN]

“You show me one reporter, one commentator, one member of Congress who thought we should invade Afghanistan before September 11 and I’ll buy you dinner in the best restaurant in New York City.”
(Sandy Berger, National Security Advisor)

“To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11.”
(British Prime Minister Tony Blair)

Oct. 17 2001, The Securities and Exchange Commission sent a letter to Enron asking for information about the hundreds of millions of dollars in third-quarter losses.

October 23, 2001 Arthur Andersen’s, David B. Duncan called an urgent meeting to organize an “expedited effort” to destroy documents. Two weeks later a desperate e-mail says “Stop the shredding.” A day before that, Andersen had received a federal subpoena for the documents… , Andersen said, a few days after he learned that the SEC had requested information.

July 2002, British Prime Minister Tony Blair states: “To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11.” []

Why did Bush appoint a paid oil company consultant (Hamid Karzai) to run Afghanistan after the invasion?

December 22, 2001: Afghani Prime Minister Hamid Karzai and his transitional government takes power in Afghanistan. It was revealed a few weeks before that he had been a paid consultant for Unocal, as well as Deputy Foreign Minister for the Taliban. [Le Monde, 12/13/01, CNN, 12/22/01] FTW

(Hamid) Karzai (was) the leader of the southern Afghan Pashtun Durrani tribe, (and) was a member of the mujaheddin that fought the Soviets during the 1980s. He was a top contact for the CIA and maintained close relations with CIA Director William Casey, Vice President George Bush, and their Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) Service interlocutors. Later, Karzai and a number of his brothers moved to the United States under the auspices of the CIA. Karzai continued to serve the agency’s interests, as well as those of the Bush Family and their oil friends in negotiating the CentGas deal, according to Middle East and South Asian sources. [The Blacklisted Journalist 4/1/02]

January 23, 2002: recent meetings between U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain and that country’s oil minister Usman Aminuddin indicate the pipeline project is international Project Number One for the Bush administration. Chamberlain,  who maintains close ties to the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan (a one-time chief money conduit for the Taliban), has been pushing Pakistan to begin work on its Arabian Sea oil terminus for the pipeline… U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan….guarding pipeline construction … Karzai’s ties with UNOCAL and the Bush administration are..why the CIA pushed him for Afghan leader over rival Abdul Haq, the assassinated former mujaheddin leader from Jalalabad, and the leadership of the Northern Alliance, seen by Langley as being too close to the Russians and Iranians. Haq had no apparent close ties to the U.S. oil industry and, as both a Pushtun and a northern Afghani, was popular with a wide cross-section of the Afghan people, including the Northern Alliance. Those credentials likely sealed his fate. (Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG)
Why did Bush appoint another Oil Company Consultant (Zalamy Khalilzad) as special envoy to Afghanistan?

January 1, 2002: President Bush appoints Zalamy Khalilzad as a special envoy to Afghanistan. [BBC, 1/1/02] Khalilzad, a former employee of Unocal, also wrote op-eds in the Washington Post in 1997 supporting the Taliban regime, back when Unocal was hoping to work with the Taliban. FTW

(Zalamy) Khalilzad, a fellow Pashtun and the son of a former government official under King Mohammed Zahir Shah, was, in addition to being a consultant to the RAND Corporation, a special liaison between UNOCAL and the Taliban government. Khalilzad also worked on various risk analyses for the project. Khalilzad’s efforts complemented those of the Enron Corporation, a major political contributor to the Bush campaign. Enron, which recently filed for bankruptcy in the single biggest corporate collapse in the nation’s history, conducted the feasibility study for the CentGas deal. Vice President Cheney held several secret meetings with top Enron officials, including its Chairman Kenneth Lay, earlier in 2001. These meetings were presumably part of Cheney’s non-public Energy Task Force sessions. A number of Enron stockholders, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, became officials in the Bush administration. In addition, Thomas White, a former Vice Chairman of Enron and a multimillionaire [The Blacklisted Journalist 4/1/02]

What Happened to the Pipeline Plans After U.S. Military Action in Afghanistan?

January 25, 2002:
Former Enron Vice Chairman John Clifford Baxter is found dead on January 25, 2002)

February 8, 2002:
Afghanistan’s interim leader Hamid Karzai says he and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf have agreed to revive a plan for a trans-Afghan gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. A consortium led by Unocal had originally aimed to build the $1.9 billion, 1,400-km (875-mile) pipeline to run from gas-rich Turkmenistan via northern Afghanistan. But in August 1998 Unocal halted development of the project after U.S. forces fired missiles at guerrilla camps in Afghanistan in the wake of bomb attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa. (“Pakistan, Afghan leaders agree to revive pipeline”, )

February 9, 2002:
Pakistani President Musharraf and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai announce their agreement to “cooperate in all spheres of activity” including the proposed Central Asian ( through Afghanistan) pipeline, which they call “in the interest of both countries.” [Irish Times, 2/9/02] FTW

February 9, 2002:
“I also find it to be ‘extraordinary circumstances’ when a top [Enron] executive commits suicide,voluminous documents are shredded and witness after witness takes the Fifth Amendment. And in my 35 years in the Senate, I have never witnessed a corporation so extraordinarily committed to buying government.” In a New York Times editorial, Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC), calls for a special counsel to be appointed to investigate Enron. (“Time for a Special Counsel”,

October 18, 2002 (B):
“The massive mothballed Dabhol power project that bankrupt US energy company Enron Corp. built in western India could be running within a year, with a long-standing dispute over power charges close to being renegotiated, a government official said.” Dabhol is the largest foreign investment project in India’s history. Despite reorganizing from a bankruptcy, Enron still holds a controlling 65 percent stake in the Dabhol Power Co., while General Electric Co. and Bechtel Corp. hold 10 percent each. The Maharashtra State Electricity Board holds the remaining 15 percent. [AP, 10/18/02]

Dec 25, 2002
Trans-Afghan pipeline project moving forward, faces risks Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf and Turkmenistan’s Suparmurat Niyazov – are scheduled to gather December 26-27 in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat — the 1,500-kilometer-long pipeline, stretching from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, would cost upwards of $2 billion to build, and would be capable of transporting about 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually. The trans-Afghan pipeline is crucial for the future of the Turkmenistan gas market — ADB and World Bank are expected to provide the bulk of the financing for the Trans-Afghan pipeline project — The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the international aid agency of the US State Department, is playing a role in the pipeline project, as well. [12/26/02 Daily Times – Pakistan]

December 27, 2002:
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan sign an agreement for the building of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, a US$3.2 billion project that has been delayed for many years. [BBC, 12/27/02, CNN, 12/26/02] A study by the Asian Development Bank stated that the pipeline would move natural gas from Turkmenistan’s huge Dauletabad-Donmez fields to the Pakistani port city of Gwadar. The pipeline was originally launched in 1997, but was abandoned when a consortium led by UNOCAL withdrew over fears of being seen as supporting the Taliban and because the US launched missile attacks on Afghanistan in 1999. The Afghan, Pakistani and Turkmen leaders relaunched the project in May 2002. UNOCAL has denied it is interested in returning to Afghanistan. Skeptics say the project would require an indefinite foreign military presence in Afghanistan. [CNN, 12/26/02, BBC, 5/30/02]

February 22, 2005:
John McCain said that U.S. bases in Afghanistan should be permanent.  After talks with Hamid Karzai, Hillary Clinton said U.S. support for Afghanistan was in the interest of both countries. [2/22/05 Reuters]

Why were the Taliban invited guests to Texas in 1997 ?   

December 4, 1997:
Representatives of the Taliban are invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. (George W. Bush is Governor of Texas at the time.) The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials, and the Telegraph reports that “the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children ‘despicable,’ appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.” A BBC regional correspondent says “the proposal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan is part of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea.” [BBC, 12/4/97, Telegraph, 12/14/97] FTW

Unocal’s business in Burma


In September 1997, 13 Burmese villagers filed suit against Unocal and their parent company, the Union Oil Company of California under the Alien Tort Claims Act.[1] The suit was filed for alleged human rights violations, including forced labour, in the construction of the Yadana gas pipeline project in Myanmar, formerly Burma.[2]

Unocal has agreed to settle the claims in Doe v. Unocal and compensate the villagers who sued the firm for complicity in forced labor, rape, and murder.

Plaintiffs in this case sought redress for the human rights abuses associated with the Unocal pipeline project in Burma. The plaintiffs were Burmese peasants who suffered a variety of egregious violations at the hands of Burmese army units that were securing the pipeline route. These abuses included forced relocation, forced labor, rape, torture, and murder. In addition to EarthRights International (ERI), counsel for the plaintiffs included Paul Hoffman, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Hadsell & Stormer, and Judith Brown Chomsky.

Due to the rising concerns of financial backers about the instability of Afghanistan, Unocal pulled out of CentGas in December 1998. On its Website (, Unocal claims to have completely dropped the oil pipeline projects between Turkmenistan and Pakistan. But the projects weren’t altogether abandoned. An article in the March 23, 2000, Business Recorder, titled “Unocal trying to re-enter Turkmen gas pipeline project,” stated that “the US company is in dialogue with the Afghan authorities seeking guaranteed protection for its personnel while working on the Afghani terrain.”

Enron, another US-based oil company, also has a strong presence in the region through its involvement in a pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Turkey by way of Azerbaijan and Georgia. Headquartered in Houston, TX, it was the largest contributor to George Bush the junior’s presidential campaign, giving at least $550,000 to Bush himself and an estimated $1.8 million to the Republican Party during the 2000 election. As its stock plummeted in October 2001, after an admission that half a billion in debt had been hidden, the company was swallowed by Dynergy, Inc., which is controlled by Chevron-Texaco.

To the US government, the financial interests and political power to be gained within the Middle East and Central Asia regions are extremely important. By ousting the Taliban, which put up so much resistance to US economic interests, it may succeed in installing a puppet regime in Afghanistan, thereby gaining control of oil resources sure to produce billions in revenues. (source)

Controversy (Wikipedia)

In March 2005, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) tried to acquire Unocal with a bid that valued Unocal at between $16 billion and $18 billion. Following a vote in the United States House of Representatives, the bid was referred to President George W. Bush, on the grounds that its implications for national security needed to be reviewed. CNOOC withdrew its bid. Soon after, Unocal merged with Chevron.

The merger was seen as U.S. protectionism in the involvement of political interests where CNOOC was made aware of a “harsh political reaction” to a take over of American companies. American congressmen cited “national security” as a reason for being alarmed by the takeover option.

Operations Central Asia

Unocal was one of the key players in the CentGas consortium, an attempt to build the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline to run from the Caspian area, through Afghanistan and probably Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. One of the consultants to Unocal at that time was Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations.

In the 1980s, CIA chief Bill Casey had revived the agency’s practise of gaining intelligence from traveling businessmen. Marty Miller, one of Unocal’s top executives, conducted negotiations in several Central Asian countries from 1995, and voluntarily provided information gained on these trips to the CIA’s Houston station.

In 1996, Unocal opened an office in Kandahar, Afghanistan, while the Taliban were in the process of taking control of the country.

Unocal rented a house in central Kandahar directly across the street from one of [Osama] bin Laden’s new compounds. They did not choose this location deliberately. Most of the decent houses in town straddled the Herat Bazaar Road. Also near was the Pakistani consulate, which housed officers from [the Pakistani military Inter-Services Intelligence, the] ISI.
—Steve Coll, Ghost Wars

In 1997,

Robert Oakley [ex-US ambassador to Pakistan, now on Unocal’s ad hoc advisory board] advised Miller to reach the Taliban by working through Pakistan’s government [then led by Benazir Bhutto]. He also suggested that Unocal hire Thomas Gouttiere, an Afghan specialist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, to develop a job training program in Kandahar that would teach Pashtuns the technical skills needed to build a pipeline. … Unocal agreed to pay $900,000 via the University of Nebraska to set up a Unocal training facility on a fifty-six acre site in Kandahar, not far from bin Laden’s compounds. … Gouttiere traveled in and out of Afghanistan and met with Taliban leaders. … In December 1997 Gouttiere worked with Miller to arrange for another Taliban delegation to visit the United States. …
—Steve Coll, Ghost Wars

Unocal seems to have had a deeper role. Intelligence “whistleblower” Julie Sirrs claimed that anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud told her he had “proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul [in 1996]”. And French journalist Richard Labeviere said, referring to the later 1990s, “The CIA and Unocal’s security forces … provided military weapons and instructors to several Taliban militia[s] …”

The Taliban and Unocal were in negotiations in Texas to discuss arrangements for the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan in 1997 and a deal was struck but later failed.

The failure was believed to be because the deal was going to be struck with Bridas, an Argentinian company.

The CentGas pipeline was not built, due to the inability of CentGas and the Taliban to come to a mutually acceptable economic understanding although rumours about a deal with Argentinian company Bridas were widespread.

The Argentinian economy collapsed soon after this deal had been struck.

Unocal was also the third largest member of the recently completed and opened Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.


Union Oil was the sponsor of the Major Burnham Bowling Trophy, an annual California bowling event supported by the Boy Scouts of America and named after Major Frederick Russell Burnham.

Unocal 76 was the official fuel and motor oil of NASCAR from the sport’s inaugural season in 1948 until the end of the 2003 season when Sunoco became the official fuel and Mobil 1 became the official motor oil. The 76 logo is often seen in Major League Baseball and National Football League stadiums on the west coast and a 76 branded gas station is located in the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

Domestic US criticism

In 1969, a blowout on the ocean bottom near Union Oil’s Platform “A” on the Dos Cuadras field leaked between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels (16,000 m3) of oil into the water of the Santa Barbara Channel, near Santa Barbara, California.[22] The event led to widespread criticism of both Union Oil and the offshore oil drilling industry, and was one of the events leading to the passage of the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Oil pipes under Avila Beach, California leaked from the 1950s until 1996. A real estate firm determined the soil to be contaminated in 1989 and Unocal agreed to clean up the soil they contaminated. To clean up the massive spill, the crew had to excavate enough soil to fill a football field up to 60 feet (18 m) high.

Between the mid 1950s and 1994, Unocal leaked 18 million gallons of diluent—a petroleum derivative pumped into heavy oil fields to make the oil flow freely—under the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes and nearby ocean water, the largest oil spill in California’s history. The pipelines had leaks in at least 90 places. Locals had noticed a strange sheen on the ocean surface, and dead seals and sea lions began washing up onto the beach. Although Unocal denied having any problems, records discovered by state fish and game officers disclosed that Unocal had long been aware of the leaks. Unocal has been actively cleaning up the site since the mid-90s, receiving praise from the Sierra Club for their habitat restoration work.

Doe v. Unocal
Main article: Doe v. Unocal

In the Doe v. Unocal case, Burmese villagers sued Unocal for complicity in forced labor, rape, torture, and murder. EarthRights International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Paul Hoffman, Hadsell & Stormer, and Judith Brown Chomsky served as co-counsel to the plaintiffs. In 2005, a settlement agreement was reached to compensate the plaintiffs.

The Coveted Trans-Afghan Route

Upon successfully negotiating leases to explore in Turkmenistan, Bridas was awarded exploration contracts for the Keimar block near the Caspian Sea, and the Yashlar block near the Afghanistan border. By March 1995, Bulgheroni had accords with Turkmenistan and Pakistan granting Bridas construction rights for a pipeline into Afghanistan, pending negotiations with the civil war-torn country.

The following year, after extensive meetings with warlords throughout Afghanistan, Bridas had a 30-year agreement with the Rabbani regime to build and operate an 875-mile gas pipeline across Afghanistan.

Bulgheroni believed that his pipeline would promote peace as well as material wealth in the region. He approached other companies, including Unocal and its then-CEO, Roger Beach, to join an international consortium.

But Unocal was not interested in a partnership. The United States government, its affiliated transnational oil and construction companies, and the ruling elite of the West had coveted the same oil and gas transit route for years.

A trans-Afghanistan pipeline was not simply a business matter, but a key component of a broader geo-strategic agenda: total military and economic control of Eurasia (the Middle East and former Soviet Central Asian republics). Zbigniew Brezezinski describes this region in his book “The Grand Chessboard-American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives” as “the center of world power.” Capturing the region’s oil wealth, and carving out territory in order to build a network of transit routes, was a primary objective of US military interventions throughout the 1990s in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Caspian Sea.

As of 1992, 11 western oil companies controlled more than 50 percent of all oil investments in the Caspian Basin, including Unocal, Amoco, Atlantic Richfield, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Pennzoil, Texaco, Phillips and British Petroleum.

In “Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia” (a definitive work that is a primary source for this report), Ahmed Rashid wrote, “US oil companies who had spearheaded the first US forays into the region wanted a greater say in US policy making.”

Business and policy planning groups active in Central Asia, such as the Foreign Oil Companies Group operated with the full support of the US State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA and the Department of Energy and Commerce.

Among the most active operatives for US efforts: Brezezinski (a consultant to Amoco, and architect of the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1970s), Henry Kissinger (advisor to Unocal), and Alexander Haig (a lobbyist for Turkmenistan), and Dick Cheney (Halliburton, US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce).

Unocal’s Central Asia envoys consisted of former US defense and intelligence officials. Robert Oakley, the former US ambassador to Pakistan, was a “counter-terrorism” specialist for the Reagan administration who armed and trained the mujahadeen during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. He was an Iran-Contra conspirator charged by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh as a key figure involved in arms shipments to Iran.

Richard Armitage, the current Deputy Defense Secretary, was another Iran-Contra player in Unocal’s employ. A former Navy SEAL, covert operative in Laos, director with the Carlyle Group, Armitage is allegedly deeply linked to terrorist and criminal networks in the Middle East, and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrghistan).

Armitage was no stranger to pipelines. As a member of the Burma/Myanmar Forum, a group that received major funding from Unocal, Armitage was implicated in a lawsuit filed by Burmese villagers who suffered human rights abuses during the construction of a Unocal pipeline. (Halliburton, under Dick Cheney, performed contract work on the same Burmese project.)

Bridas Versus the New World Order

Much to Bridas’ dismay, Unocal went directly to regional leaders with its own proposal. Unocal formed its own competing US-led, Washington-sponsored consortium that included Saudi Arabia’s Delta Oil, aligned with Saudi Prince Abdullah and King Fahd. Other partners included Russia’s Gazprom and Turkmenistan’s state-owned Turkmenrozgas.

John Imle, president of Unocal (and member of the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce with Armitage, Cheney, Brezezinski and other ubiquitous figures), lobbied Turkmenistan’s president Niyazov and prime minister Bhutto of Pakistan, offering a Unocal pipeline following the same route as Bridas.’

Dazzled by the prospect of an alliance with the US, Niyazov asked Bridas to renegotiate its past contract and blocked Bridas’ exports from Keimar field. Bridas responded by filing three cases with the International Chamber of Commerce against Turkmenistan for breach of contract. (Bridas won.) Bridas also filed a lawsuit in Texas charging Unocal with civil conspiracy and “tortuous interference with business relations.” While its officers were negotiating with Pakistani and Turkmen oil and gas officials, Bridas claimed that Unocal had stolen its idea, and coerced the Turkmen government into blocking Bridas from Keimir field. (The suit was dismissed in 1998 by Judge Brady G. Elliott, a Republican, who claimed that any dispute between Unocal and Bridas was governed by the laws of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, rather than Texas law.)

In October 1995, with neither company in a winning position, Bulgheroni and Imle accompanied Niyazov to the opening of the UN General Assembly. There, Niyazov awarded Unocal with a contract for a 918-mile natural gas pipeline. Bulgheroni was shocked. At the announcement ceremony, Unocal consultant Henry Kissinger said that the deal looked like “the triumph of hope over experience.”

Later, Unocal’s consortium, CentGas, would secure another contract for a companion 1,050-mile oil pipeline from Dauletabad through Afghanistan that would connect to a tanker loading port in Pakistan on the coast of the Arabian Sea.

Although Unocal had agreements with the governments on either end of the proposed route, Bridas still had the contract with Afghanistan.

The problem was resolved via the CIA and Pakistani ISI-backed Taliban. Following a visit to Kandahar by US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robin Raphael in the fall of 1996, the Taliban entered Kabul and sent the Rabbani government packing.

Bridas’ agreement with Rabbani would have to be renegotiated.

Wooing the Taliban

According to Ahmed Rashid, “Unocal’s real influence with the Taliban was that their project carried the possibility of US recognition, which the Taliban were desperately anxious to secure.”

Unocal wasted no time greasing the palms of the Taliban. It offered humanitarian aid to Afghan warlords who would form a council to supervise the pipeline project. It provided a new mobile phone network between Kabul and Kandahar. Unocal also promised to help rebuild Kandahar, and donated $9,000 to the University of Nebraska’s Center for Afghan Studies. The US State Department, through its aid organization USAID, contributed significant education funding for Taliban. In the spring of 1996, Unocal executives flew Uzbek leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum to Dallas to discuss pipeline passage through his northern (Northern Alliance-controlled) territories.

Bridas countered by forming an alliance with Ningarcho, a Saudi company closely aligned with Prince Turki el-Faisal, the Saudi intelligence chief. Turki was a mentor to Osama bin Laden, the ally of the Taliban who was publicly feuding with the Saudi royal family. As a gesture for Bridas, Prince Turki provided the Taliban with communications equipment and a fleet of pickup trucks. Now Bridas proposed two consortiums, one to build the Afghanistan portion, and another to take care of both ends of the line. By November 1996, Bridas claimed that it had an agreement signed by the Taliban and Dostum—trumping Unocal.

The competition between Unocal and Bridas, as described by Rashid, “began to reflect the competition within the Saudi Royal family.”

In 1997, Taliban officials traveled twice to Washington, D.C. and Buenos Aires to be wined and dined by Unocal and Bridas. No agreements were signed.

It appeared to Unocal that the Taliban was balking. In addition to royalties, the Taliban demanded funding for infrastructure projects, including roads and power plants. The Taliban also announced plans to revive the Afghan National Oil Company, which had been abolished by the Soviet regime in the late 1970s.

Osama bin Laden (who issued his fatwa against the West in 1998) advised the Taliban to sign with Bridas. In addition to offering the Taliban a higher bid, Bridas proposed an open pipeline accessible to warlords and local users. Unocal’s pipeline was closed—for export purposes only. Bridas’ plan also did not require outside financing, while Unocal’s required a loan from the western financial institutions (the World Bank), which in turn would leave Afghanistan vulnerable to demands from western governments.

Bridas’ approach to business was more to the Taliban’s liking. Where Bulgheroni and Bridas’ engineers would take the time to “sip tea with Afghan tribesmen,” Unocal’s American executives issued top-down edicts from corporate headquarters and the US Embassy (including a demand to open talks with the CIA-backed Northern Alliance).

While seemingly well received within Afghanistan, Bridas’ problems with Turkmenistan (which they blamed on Unocal and US interference) had left them cash-strapped and without a supply.

In 1997, they went searching for a major partner with the clout to break the deadlock with Turkmenistan. They found one in Amoco. Bridas sold 60 percent of its Latin American assets to Amoco. Carlos Bulgheroni and his contingent retained the remaining minority 40 percent. Facilitating the merger were other icons of transnational finance, Chase Manhattan (representing Bridas), Morgan Stanley (handling Amoco) and Arthur Andersen (facilitator of post-merger integration). Zbigniew Brezezinski was a consultant for Amoco.

(Amoco would merge with British Petroleum a year later. BP is represented by the law firm of Baker & Botts, whose principal attorney is James Baker, lifelong Bush friend, former secretary of state, and a member of the Carlyle Group.)

Recognizing the significance of the merger, a Pakistani oil company executive hinted, “If these (Central Asian) countries want a big US company involved, Amoco is far bigger than Unocal.”

Clearing the Chessboard Again

By 1998, while the Argentine contingent made slow progress, Unocal faced a number of new problems.

Gazprom pulled out of CentGas when Russia complained about the anti-Russian agenda of the US. This forced Unocal to expand CentGas to include Japanese and South Korean gas companies, while maintaining the dominant share with Delta.

Human rights groups began protesting Unocal’s dealings with the brutal Taliban. Still riding years of Clinton bashing and scandal mongering, conservative Republicans in the US attacked the Clinton administration’s Central Asia policy for its lack of clarity and “leadership.”

Once again, violence would change the dynamic.

In response to the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania (attributed to bin Laden), President Bill Clinton sent cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan. The administration broke off diplomatic contact with the Taliban, and UN sanctions were imposed.

Unocal withdrew from CentGas, and informed the State Department “the gas pipeline would not proceed until an internationally recognized government was in place in Afghanistan.” Although Unocal continued on and off negotiations on the oil pipeline (a separate project), the lack of support from Washington hampered efforts.

Meanwhile, Bridas declared that it would not need to wait for resolution of political issues, and repeated its intention of moving forward with the Afghan gas pipeline project on its own. Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan tried to push Saudi Arabia to proceed with CentGas (Delta of Saudi Arabia was now the leader). But war and US-Taliban tension made business impossible.

For the remainder of the Clinton presidency, there would be no official US or UN recognition of Afghanistan. And no progress on the pipeline.

Then George Walker Bush took the White House.

Time line:

  1. ^Unocal World On-Line.” Unocal Corporation. December 27, 1996. Retrieved on July 7, 2009.
  2. ^ Home page. Unocal Corporation. January 29, 2005. Retrieved on July 7, 2009.
  3. ^ Ralph Arnold and V. R. Garfias, “Geology and technology of the California oil fields,” Bulletin of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, n.87, March 1914, p.390-392.
  4. ^ a b Poor’s and Moodys manual consolidated, Part 2, Moody Manual Co., 1921, pp. 1578-82 (retrieved 2 August 2010 from Google Books)
  5. ^ Moody’s manual of railroads and corporation securities, Part 2, Moody Manual Co., 1922, p. 1175 (retrieved 2 August 2010 from Google Books)
  6. ^ LA Times, Unocal Board Rejects Mesa Takeover Bid, April 15, 1985
  7. ^ David Danelski, Expansion in works for S.B. County mine with troubled environmental past, The Biz Press, February 9, 2009.
  8. ^ China Shakes the World – James Kynge, 2006, Phoenix Books, ISBN 13 978-0-7538-2155-8
  9. ^
  10. ^ Blustein, Paul (July 1, 2005). “Many Oil Experts Unconcerned Over China Unocal Bid”. The Washington Post.
  11. ^ Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, Penguin, 2005 edn, p.314.
  12. ^ Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, Penguin, 2005 edn, p.342.
  13. ^ Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, Penguin, 2005 edn, p.364.
  14. ^ Gail Sheehy, “Ex-Spook Sirrs: Early Osama Call Got Her Ejected“, The New York Observer, March 14, 2004.
  15. ^ Richard Labeviere, Dollars For Terror, Algora Press, 2000, p.272.
  16. ^ BBC,”Taleban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline
  17. ^ BBC, “Taleban says it’s ready to sign Turkmen pipeline deal
  18. ^ BBC, Afghan Pipeline Deal Close
  19. ^ BBC, “Argentina erupts into chaos
  20. ^ Davis, Clark (2001). Company Men: White-Collar Life and Corporate Cultures in Los Angeles, 1892-1941. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 111, 219. ISBN 0801862752.
  21. ^ Ehrenclou, V. L. (May–June 1925). “Major Burnham – The Scout”. Union Oil Bulletin: 1–11, 19. OCLC 12064434.
  22. ^ Unocal Corporation company history. Retrieved on June 14, 2008
  23. ^ Brief Oil and Gas History of Santa Barbara County: Santa Barbara County Energy Division
  24. ^ Le, Phuong (August 10, 1999). “Beach town forced to scrape away oil leak — and a chunk of its past”. Seattle PI. Retrieved 09/12/09.
  25. ^ Leavenworth, Stuart (April 27, 2003). “Dunes’ spills still focus of cleanup”. Sacramento Bee. Retrieved May 4, 2007.
  26. ^ EarthRights Doe v. Unocal. Retrieved on June 16, 2009

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