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The Soviet Union collapses in 1991, creating several new nations in Central Asia. Major US oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Texaco, Unocal, BP Amoco, Shell, and Enron, directly invest billions in these Central Asian nations, bribing heads of state to secure equity rights in the huge oil reserves in these regions. The oil companies commit to $35 billion in future direct investments in Kazakhstan. It is believed at the time that these oil fields will have an estimated $6 trillion potential value. US companies own approximately 75 percent of the rights. These companies, however, face the problem of having to pay exorbitant prices to Russia for use of the Russian pipelines to get the oil out. (Hersh 7/9/2001; Asia Times 1/26/2002)
Oil company Unocal signs an $8 billion deal with Turkmenistan to construct two pipelines (one for oil, one for gas), as part of a larger plan for two pipelines intended to transport oil and gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into Pakistan. Before proceeding further, however, Unocal needs to execute agreements with Pakistan and Afghanistan; Pakistan and Ahmed Shah Massoud’s government in Afghanistan, however, have already signed a pipeline deal with an Argentinean company. Henry Kissinger, hired as speaker for a special dinner in New York to announce the Turkmenistan pipeline deal, says the Unocal plan represents a “triumph of hope over experience.” Unocal will later open an office in Kabul, weeks after the Taliban capture of the capital in late 1996 and will interact with the Taliban, seeking support for its pipeline until at least December 1997. (Coll 2004, pp. 301-13, 329, 338, 364-66)
Robin Raphel, Deputy Secretary of State for South Asia, speaks to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister about Afghanistan. She says that the US government “now hopes that peace in the region will facilitate US business interests,” such as the proposed Unocal gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. (Coll 2004, pp. 330)
Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia reach agreement with state companies in Turkmenistan and Russia to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan; the agreement is finalized in 1997. (Unocal 8/13/1996)
The Taliban conquer Kabul (Kugler 8/19/2002) , establishing control over much of Afghanistan. A surge in the Taliban’s military successes at this time is later attributed to an increase in direct military assistance from Pakistan’s ISI. (Frantz 12/8/2001) The oil company Unocal is hopeful that the Taliban will stabilize Afghanistan and allow its pipeline plans to go forward. According to some reports, “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.” (Lockwood 10/11/1996) The 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. (9/11 Commission 3/24/2004)
In a Washington Post op-ed, Zalmay Khalilzad calls on the US to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. “It is time for the United States to reengage.…The Taliban does not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran—it is closer to the Saudi model.” He calls on the US to help the Taliban “put Afghanistan on a path toward peace,” noting that continuing violence “has been a source of regional instability and an obstacle to building pipelines to bring Central Asian oil and gas to Pakistan and the world markets.” (Khalilzad 10/7/1996) However, by 2000, Khalilzad will sour on the Taliban. In a speech in March 2000, he will state, “Afghanistan was and is a possible corridor for the export of oil and gas from the Central Asian states down to Pakistan and to the world. A California company called Unocal was interested in exploring that option, but because of the war in Afghanistan, because of the instability that’s there, those options, or that option at least, has not materialized.” (Khalilzad 3/9/2000)
Unocal pays University of Nebraska $900,000 to set up a training facility near Osama bin Laden’s Kandahar compound, to train 400 Afghan teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipe fitters in anticipation of using them for their pipeline in Afghanistan. One hundred and fifty students are already attending classes in southern Afghanistan. Unocal is playing University of Nebraska professor Thomas Gouttierre to develop the training program. Gouttierre travels to Afghanistan and meets with Taliban leaders, and also arranges for some Taliban leaders to visit the US around this time (see December 4, 1997). (Lees 12/14/1997; Coll 2004, pp. 364) It will later be revealed that the CIA paid Gouttierre to head a program at the University of Nebraska that created textbooks for Afghanistan promoting violence and jihad (see 1984-1994). Gouttierre will continue to work with the Taliban after Unocal officially cuts off ties with them. For instance, he will host some Taliban leaders visiting the US in 1999 (see July-August 1999).
Representatives of the Taliban are invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future 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. According to the Daily Telegraph, “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 that “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 12/4/1997; Lees 12/14/1997) It has been claimed that the Taliban meet with Enron officials while in Texas (see 1996-September 11, 2001). Enron, headquartered in Texas, has an large financial interest in the pipeline at the time (see June 24, 1996). The Taliban also visit Thomas Gouttierre, an academic at the University of Nebraska, who is a consultant for Unocal and also has been paid by the CIA for his work in Afghanistan (see 1984-1994 and December 1997). Gouttierre takes them on a visit to Mt. Rushmore. (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 328-329)
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-Afghan 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. (US Congress 2/12/1998)
Julie Sirrs, a military analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), travels to Afghanistan. Fluent in local languages and knowledgeable about the culture, she made a previous undercover trip there in October 1997. She is surprised that the CIA was not interested in sending in agents after the failed missile attack on Osama bin Laden in August 1998, so she returns at this time. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. She sees a terrorist training center in Taliban-controlled territory. Sirrs will later claim: “The Taliban’s brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden’s money, plus the narcotics trade, while [Massoud’s] resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.” She partly blames the interest of the US government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability to enable a trans-Afghanistan pipeline (see May 1996 and September 27, 1996). She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn’t want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.” After two weeks, Sirrs returns with a treasure trove of maps, photographs, and interviews. (ABC News 2/18/2002; ABC News 2/18/2002; Sheehy 3/11/2004) By interviewing captured al-Qaeda operatives, she learns that the official Afghanistan airline, Ariana Airlines, is being used to ferry weapons and drugs, and learns that bin Laden goes hunting with “rich Saudis and top Taliban officials” (see Mid-1996-October 2001 and 1995-2001). (Braun and Pasternak 11/18/2001) When Sirrs returns from Afghanistan, her material is confiscated and she is accused of being a spy. Says one senior colleague, “She had gotten the proper clearances to go, and she came back with valuable information,” but high level officials “were so intent on getting rid of her, the last thing they wanted to pay attention to was any information she had.” Sirrs is cleared of wrongdoing, but her security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration in 1999. (ABC News 2/18/2002; Sheehy 3/11/2004) Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) will claim that the main DIA official behind the punishment of Sirrs is Lieutenant General Patrick Hughes, who later becomes “one of the top officials running the Department of Homeland Security.” (Dana Rohrabacher 6/21/2004)
Unocal announces it is withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. President Clinton refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, making business there legally problematic. A concern that Clinton will lose support among women voters for upholding the Taliban plays a role in the cancellation. (Levine 12/5/1998)
About a dozen Afghan leaders visit the US. They are militia commanders, mostly Taliban, and some with ties to al-Qaeda. A few are opponents of the Taliban. Their exact names and titles remain classified. For five weeks, they visit numerous locales in the US, including Mt. Rushmore. All their expenses are paid by the US government and the University of Nebraska. Thomas Gouttierre, an academic heading an Afghanistan program at the University of Nebraska, hosts their visit. Gouttierre is working as a consultant to Unocal at the time, and some Taliban visits to the US are paid for by Unocal, such as a visit two years earlier (see December 4, 1997). However, it is unknown if Unocal plays a role in this particular trip. Gouttierre had previously been paid by the CIA to create Afghan textbooks promoting violence and jihad (see 1984-1994). It is unknown if any of these visitors meet with US officials during their trip. (Berens 10/21/2001)
Zalmay Khalilzad is appointed Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues on the National Security Council. Khalilzad was an official in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. During the Clinton years, he worked for Unocal. (US Department of State 2001; Sengupta and Gumbel 1/10/2002) He previously worked under Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and helped him write a controversial 1992 plan for US world domination.(see March 8, 1992) (Weisman 3/23/2003) He was a member of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century. The Asia Times notes, “It was Khalilzad—when he was a huge Taliban fan—who conducted the risk analysis for Unocal (Union Oil Company of California) for the infamous proposed $2 billion, 1,500 kilometer-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan [TAP] gas pipeline.” (Escobar 12/25/2003) After 9/11, he will be appointed as special envoy to Afghanistan (see January 1, 2002) and then US ambassador to Afghanistan (see November 2003).
Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai and his transitional government assume power in Afghanistan. The press reported a few weeks before that Karzai had been a paid consultant for Unocal at one time (Karzai and Unocal both deny this), as well as the Deputy Foreign Minister for the Taliban. (Monde 12/13/2001; CNN 12/22/2001)
Zalmay Khalilzad, already Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues, and a prominent neoconversative (see May 23, 2001), is appointed by President Bush as a special envoy to Afghanistan. (Fox 1/1/2002) In his former role as Unocal adviser, Khalilzad participated in negotiations with the Taliban to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. He also wrote op-eds in the Washington Post in 1997 (see October 7, 1996) supporting the Taliban regime, back when Unocal was hoping to work with the Taliban. (Sengupta and Gumbel 1/10/2002) He will be appointed US ambassador to Afghanistan in 2003 (see November 2003).
Afghanistan’s interim leader, Hamid Karzai, Turkmenistan’s President Niyazov, and Pakistani President Musharraf meet in Islamabad and sign a memorandum of understanding on the trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project. (Hashmi 5/31/2002; Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections 6/8/2002) Afghan leader Hamid Karzai (who formerly worked for Unocal) calls Unocal the “lead company” in building the pipeline. (BBC 5/13/2002) The Los Angeles Times comments, “To some here, it looked like the fix was in for Unocal when President Bush named a former Unocal consultant, Zalmay Khalilzad, as his special envoy to Afghanistan late last year .” (Watson 5/30/2002) Unocal claims that it has no interest in any Afghanistan pipeline after 9/11. However, Afghan officials say that Unocal will be the lead company in funding the pipeline. The Afghan deputy minister of mines comments on Unocal’s claim of disinterest: “Business has its secrets and mysteries. Maybe… they don’t want it to be disclosed in the media.” (Landsberg 3/2/2003)
The $4 billion US-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline officially opens. The pipeline begins in Baku, Azerbaijan and travels 1,762 km (1,000 miles) through Georgia to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan in Turkey. The pipeline has been under construction for ten years and was built by a consortium of oil companies including Amerada Hess, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Inpex, Itochu, Statoil, Total, SOCAR, TPAO, Unocal, and BP. The pipeline is expected to bring one million barrels of oil per day to the West. (Institution 3/4/2003; Cooke 5/5/2005; BBC 5/25/2005)
The US House of Representatives approves House Resolution 344 (H.Res.344) with a 398 to 15 vote urging President Bush to block the proposed takeover of Unocal Oil by the Chinese National Overseas Oil Company (CNOOC Ltd) on the grounds of national security. CNOOC has bid $18.5 billion for Unocal against a $16.5 billion bid by Chevron. In a written statement, China’s foreign ministry says, “CNOOC’s bid to take over the US Unocal company is a normal commercial activity between enterprises and should not fall victim to political interference.” (Goodman 7/4/2005) Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) warns that the “Chinese would also be advantaged by such a transaction because it would extend their military and economic reach in such a way that could potentially impact… [US] involvement in East Asia.” (Office of Representatives Duncan Hunter 7/1/2005)
The first oil pumped from Baku, by the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, arrives in Ceyhan, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, and is loaded onto a ship. The 1,770 km pipeline, which passes through the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, bypasses Russia and Iran for geopolitical reasons. The main shareholder is British Petroleum, and other significant shareholders include the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Statoil of Norway, and the US company Unocal, which has an 8.9% interest and became interested in the project no later than 1998. Unocal begins losing interest in a pipeline across Afghanistan around the same time (see December 5, 1998). Substantial amounts to finance the $3-4 billion Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline were arranged by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The consortium members put up the remaining 30%. (US Congress 2/12/1998; Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections 7/12/2002; Paton 12/1/2003; Tran 5/26/2005; Socor 5/31/2005; Turkish Weekly 5/29/2006) Journalist Pepe Escobar comments: “In terms of no-holds-barred power politics and oil geopolitics, BTC is the real deal—a key component in the US’s overall strategy of wrestling the Caucasus and Central Asia away from Russia—and bypassing Iranian oil and gas routes… BTC makes little sense in economic terms. Oil experts know that the most cost-effective routes from the Caspian would be south through Iran or north through Russia. But BTC is a designer masterpiece of power politics—from the point of view of Washington and its corporate allies. US Vice President Dick Cheney, already in his previous incarnation as Halliburton chief, has always been a huge cheerleader for the ‘strategically significant’ BTC.” Escobar also mentions that the amount of Caspian oil was overestimated (see November 1, 2002), “the Caspian may hold only 32 billion barrels of oil—not much more than the reserves of Qatar, a small Gulf producer.” (Escobar 5/26/2005) However, the Caspian area is still believed to hold considerable amounts of natural gas. The construction of this pipeline does not halt plans for the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean (see January 18, 2005).
In preparation for his expected announcement of a new “surge” of 21,500 combat troops for Iraq (see January 10, 2007), President Bush puts together a new team of advisers and officials to oversee his administration’s Iraq policy. The new team includes:
Zalmay Khalilzad as the ambassador to the United Nations. Khalilzad, the only Middle East native in a senior position in the administration, is the former ambassador to both Afghanistan and Iraq (see November 2003), a well-known neoconservative who formerly held a position with the oil corporation Unocal. He will replace interim ambassador John Bolton, an abrasive neoconservative who could never win confirmation in the post from the US Senate.
Ryan Crocker is the leading candidate to replace Khalilzad as the US ambassador to Iraq. Crocker, who speaks fluent Arabic, is currently the ambassador to Pakistan.
Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte will become the top deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Negroponte, a controversial veteran of US foreign operations in Latin America and the Middle East, has also served as the US ambassador to Iraq. Rice is widely viewed as in dire need of a savvy, experienced deputy who can assist her both in handling the sprawling State Department bureaucracy, and focus her efforts to handle diplomatic efforts in the Middle East as well as in other regions.
Retired Admiral Mike McConnell, who headed the National Security Agency under former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, will replace Negroponte as DNI.
Admiral William Fallon, head of the US Pacific Command, will replace General John Abizaid as commander of the US forces in the Middle East. Abizaid has drawn media attention in recent months for his muted criticism of the Bush administration’s Iraqi policies.
Army General David Petraeus will replace General George Casey as the chief military commander in Iraq. Petraeus once headed the effort to train Iraqi security forces. Like Abizaid, Casey has been skeptical about the need for more US forces in Iraq. (USA Today 1/5/2007; Wolfson 1/5/2007)
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