- President Bush has appointed a former aide to the American
oil company Unocal, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, as special envoy to Afghanistan.
The nomination was announced December 31, nine days after the US-backed
interim government of Hamid Karzai took office in Kabul.
- The nomination underscores the real economic and financial
interests at stake in the US military intervention in Central Asia. Khalilzad
is intimately involved in the long-running US efforts to obtain direct
access to the oil and gas resources of the region, largely unexploited
but believed to be the second largest in the world after the Persian Gulf.
- As an adviser for Unocal, Khalilzad drew up a risk analysis
of a proposed gas pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan
across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. He participated in
talks between the oil company and Taliban officials in 1997, which were
aimed at implementing a 1995 agreement to build the pipeline across western
- Unocal was the lead company in the formation of the Centgas
consortium, whose purpose was to bring to market natural gas from the Dauletabad
Field in southeastern Turkmenistan, one of the world's largest. The $2
billion project involved a 48-inch diameter pipeline from the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan
border, passing near the cities of Herat and Kandahar, crossing into Pakistan
near Quetta and linking with existing pipelines at Multan. An additional
$600 million extension to India was also under consideration.
- Khalilzad also lobbied publicly for a more sympathetic
US government policy towards the Taliban. Four years ago, in an op-ed article
in the Washington Post, he defended the Taliban regime against accusations
that it was a sponsor of terrorism, writing, "The Taliban does not
practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran."
- "We should ... be willing to offer recognition and
humanitarian assistance and to promote international economic reconstruction,"
he declared. "It is time for the United States to reengage" the
Afghan regime. This "reengagement" would, of course, have been
enormously profitable to Unocal, which was otherwise unable to bring gas
and oil to market from landlocked Turkmenistan.
- Khalilzad only shifted his position on the Taliban after
the Clinton administration fired cruise missiles at targets in Afghanistan
in August 1998, claiming that terrorists under the direction of Afghan-based
Osama bin Laden were responsible for bombing US embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania. One day after the attack, Unocal put Centgas on hold. Two months
later it abandoned all plans for a trans-Afghan pipeline. The oil interests
began to look towards a post-Taliban Afghanistan, and so did their representatives
in the US nationalsecurity establishment.
- Liasion to Islamic guerrillas
- Born in Mazar-e Sharif in 1951, Khalilzad hails from
the old ruling elite of Afghanistan. His father was an aide to King Zahir
Shah, who ruled the country until 1973. Khalilzad was a graduate student
at the University of Chicago, an intellectual center for the American right-wing,
when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
- Khalilzad became an American citizen, while serving as
a key link between US imperialism and the Islamic fundamentalist mujahedin
fighting the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul-the milieu out of which both
the Taliban and bin Laden's Al Qaeda group arose. He was a special adviser
to the State Department during the Reagan administration, lobbying successfully
for accelerated US military aid to the mujahedin, including hand-held Stinger
anti-aircraft missiles which played a key role in the war. He later became
undersecretary of defense in the administration of Bush's father, during
the US war against Iraq, then went to the Rand Corporation, a top US military
- After Bush was installed as president by a 5-4 vote of
the US Supreme Court, Khalilzad headed the Bush-Cheney transition team
for the Defense Department and advised incoming Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld. Significantly, however, he was not named to a subcabinet position,
which would have required Senate confirmation and might have provoked uncomfortable
questions about his role as an oil company adviser in Central Asia and
intermediary with the Taliban. Instead, he was named to the National Security
Council, where no confirmation vote was needed.
- At the NSC Khalilzad reports to Condoleeza Rice, the
national security adviser, who also served as an oil company consultant
on Central Asia. After serving in the first Bush administration from 1989
to 1992, Rice was placed on the board of directors of Chevron Corporation
and served as its principal expert on Kazakhstan, where Chevron holds the
largest concession of any of the international oil companies. The oil industry
connections of Bush and Cheney are well known, but little has been said
in the media about the prominent role being played in Afghan policy by
officials who advised the oil industry on Central Asia.
- One of the few commentaries in the America media about
this aspect of the US military campaign appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle
last September 26. Staff writer Frank Viviano observed: "The hidden
stakes in the war against terrorism can be summed up in a single word:
oil. The map of terrorist sanctuaries and targets in the Middle East and
Central Asia is also, to an extraordinary degree, a map of the world's
principal energy sources in the 21st century.... It is inevitable that
the war against terrorism will be seen by many as a war on behalf of America's
Chevron, Exxon, and Arco; France's TotalFinaElf; British Petroleum; Royal
Dutch Shell and other multinational giants, which have hundreds of billions
of dollars of investment in the region."
- Silence in the media
- This reality is well understood in official Washington,
but the most important corporate-controlled media outlets-the television
networks and major national daily newspapers-have maintained silence that
amounts to deliberate, politically motivated self-censorship.
- The sole recent exception is an article which appeared
December 15 in the New York Times business section, headlined, "As
the War Shifts Alliances, Oil Deals Follow." The Times reported, "The
State Department is exploring the potential for post-Taliban energy projects
in the region, which has more than 6 percent of the world's proven oil
reserves and almost 40 percent of its gas reserves."
- The Times noted that during a visit in early December
to Kazakhstan, "Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he was 'particularly
impressed' with the money that American oil companies were investing there.
He estimated that $200 billion could flow into Kazakhstan during the next
5 to 10 years."
- Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham also pushed US oil
investments in the region during a November visit to Russia, on which he
was accompanied by David J. O'Reilly, chairman of ChevronTexaco.
- Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has also played a role in
the ongoing oil pipeline maneuvers. During a December 14 visit to Baku,
capital of Azerbaijan, he assured officials of the oil-rich Caspian state
that the administration would lift sanctions imposed in 1992 in the wake
of the conflict with Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have aligned themselves with
the US military thrust into Central Asia, offering the Pentagon transit
rights and use of airfields. Rumsfeld's visit and his conciliatory remarks
were the reward. Rumsfeld told President Haydar Aliyev that the administration
had reached agreement with congressional leaders to waive the sanctions.
- On November 28 the White House released a statement hailing
the official opening of the first new pipeline by the Caspian Pipeline
Consortium, a joint venture of Russia, Kazakhstan, Oman, ChevronTexaco,
ExxonMobil and several other oil companies. The pipeline connects the huge
Tengiz oilfield in northwestern Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port
of Novorossiysk, where tankers are loaded for the world market. US companies
put up $1 billion of the $2.65 billion construction cost.
- The Bush statement declared, "The CPC project also
advances my Administration's National Energy Policy by developing a network
of multiple Caspian pipelines that also includes the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan,
Baku-Supsa, and Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipelines and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum
- There was little US press coverage of this announcement.
Nor did the media refer to the fact that the pipeline consortium involved
in the Baku-Ceyhan plan, led by the British oil company BP, is represented
by the law firm of Baker & Botts. The principal attorney at this firm
is James Baker III, secretary of state under Bush's father and chief spokesman
for the 2000 Bush campaign during its successful effort to shut down the
Florida vote recount.
- See Also:
- US planned war in Afghanistan long before September 11
http://wsws.org/articles/2001/nov2001/afgh-n20.shtml [20 November 2001]
- US exploits chaos to push its own political agenda in
Afghanistan [19 November 2001]
- The US War in Afghanistan [WSWS Full Coverage]