Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why the surge in Afghanistan?

Part 1

It’s about oil!

On February 12, 1998, John J. Maresca, then vice president, international relations for the UNOCAL oil company; testified before the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations.

During his testimony, Maresca provided information to Congress on Central Asia oil and gas reserves and how they might shape US foreign policy. The main part of this discussion, centered around, the oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea holds as much as 44 billion barrels of oil in its reserves, with the southern waters near Iran holding at least half of that.

The Caspian Sea shelf is considered one of the largest sources of petroleum outside the Persian Gulf and Russia.

The oil reserves are in areas north of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Routes for a pipeline were proposed that would transport oil on a 42-inch pipe southward thru Afghanistan for 1040 miles to the Pakistan coast. Such a pipeline would cost about $2.5 billion (at the time) and carry about 1 million barrels of oil per day. The region's largest producers were and remain Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

Afghanistan was under the control of multiple war lords, because of this lack of a single governing body Maresca told Congress then that: "It's not going to be built until there is a single Afghan government. That's the simple answer." The key to foreign investment in these two Caspian nations was obtaining secure export routes. The lack of a secure means of transporting Caspian Sea oil and gas to world markets has been an impediment to foreign investment. Until foreign investors could rely on access to markets, investment in the Caspian region's huge petroleum potential would remain small.

The problem, Unocal needed control over the region, and a single government leader with whom it would deal. Unocal sought to build a relationship with the Taliban!

Beginning in 1998 UNOCAL was chastised, particularly by women's rights groups, for discussions with the Taliban, and headed in retreat as a worldwide effort mounted to come to the defense of the Afghani women. This forced UNOCAL to withdraw from its talks with the Taliban and dissolve its multinational partnership in that region.

In 1999 Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections newsletter said: "UNOCAL company officials said late last year (1998) they were abandoning the project because of the need to cut costs in the Caspian region and because of the repeated failure of efforts to resolve the long civil conflict in Afghanistan." [Volume 4, issue #20 - Monday, November 22, 1999]

Political pressure against the Taliban was maintained through the channels of the US Government.

UNOCAL at the time was not the only party positioning themselves to tap into oil and gas reserves in central Asia. UNOCAL was primary member of a multinational consortium called CentGas (Central Asia Gas) along with Delta Oil Company Limited (Saudi Arabia), the Government of Turkmenistan, Indonesia Petroleum, LTD. (INPEX) (Japan), ITOCHU Oil Exploration Co., Ltd. (Japan), Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. (Korea), the Crescent Group (Pakistan) and RAO Gazprom (Russia).

So, in 1998 Osama bin Laden was identified as the villain behind the Taliban, and the Afghanistani women the victims of an oppressive Taliban regime. The stage was set for a future destabilization effort (i.e. a war). The US media began to attack the Taliban in a propaganda move to set that stage.

Women's rights were introduced into Congressional record testimony by Congressman Rohrbacher as the wedge for UNOCAL to build its pipeline through Afghanistan. Three years later CNN would be airing its acclaimed TV documentary "Under The Veil," which displayed the oppressive conditions that women endure in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban (a propaganda film for the oil pipeline).

Part 2 next