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Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 96 18:17:40 CST
Resent-From: Rich Winkel <MATHRICH@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
From: NY Transfer News Collective <nyt@blythe.org>
Subject: Afghan Battle over Central Asian Oil

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

Afghanistan: Battle Deepens for Central Asian Oil

By John Catalinotto, Workers World,
24 October 1996

The brutal fighting in Afghanistan that appeared to be over in September has flared up again. With it the battle continues over who will control access to the oil and gas resources of Central Asia.

As fighting goes on north of the capital Kabul, each day exposes the true basis of U.S. government policy. Since 1979 Washington has talked of its concern for the Afghan people as it financed a bloody counterrevolutionary war that killed and displaced millions. But they can't hide the truth any longer. This talk was and is only a smoke screen for U.S. imperialism's strategic and also commercial interests in the area.

As September ended the reactionary faction called the Taliban had seized the capital city of Kabul and appeared ready to consolidate its rule of the country. The Clinton administration talked of establishing relations. Unocal Corp., a U.S.-based oil company, was almost jubilant as it readied a multi-billion-dollar pipeline project.

Upon entering Kabul, the Taliban immediately revealed their most reactionary side, executing without trial their political opponents, barring women and girls from schools, and refusing to let women work or even leave the house. This included up to 50,000 war widows in Kabul who are the sole support for their families.

These policies aroused alarm and disgust worldwide.

But then Taliban fighters--who earlier had surrounded and taken Kabul without many casualties--started running into trouble to the north. Wire service reports say they were driven out of two towns near the stronghold of an army led by Ahmad Shah Massoud. Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who heads an army of 50,000 and a region of 5 million people bordering on Uzbekistan, now has signed an alliance with Massoud against the Taliban.

The northern region is filled with people who have fled Taliban-ruled areas. Mazara-i-Sharif, Dostum's headquarters near the Uzbekistan border, has now doubled its population to 2 million. This region still retains some of the progressive reforms won during the revolutionary period beginning in 1979.


Embarrassed to be openly identified with the Taliban's feudal policies--especially since they might still lose the war--the U.S. government has pulled back from voicing enthusiasm over the Taliban takeover. It even voted some criticism of the Taliban in the UN Security Council.

A similar shift has taken place at Unocal. Back on Oct. 1, Unocal Executive Vice President Chris Taggert had said, If the Taliban leads to stability and international recognition, then it's positive.

Unocal, along with Delta Oil Co. of Saudi Arabia, plans to build two major pipelines through Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan. The idea is to suck out the great resources of the former Central Asian Republics of the Soviet Union. One pipeline would bring natural gas from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad field to power plants in Pakistan. Another would flow a million barrels of crude oil from the Chardzhou field in Turkmenistan down to a Pakistani seaport, where they could be sold on the world capitalist market.

But then it became apparent the Taliban were not in complete control. On Oct. 13, another Unocal executive, Richard Keller, said, We are waiting to see what happens in Afghanistan. Hopefully things will improve, but we don't know what to believe. And then the necessary figleaf: Obviously there has to be a government acceptable to the Afghans and the outside world.

Unocal's ties to the Taliban are probably closer than its executives let on. An article published in early October in the German daily, Frankfurter Rundschau, asserts that Unocal has been given the go-ahead from the new holders of power in Kabul to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan. It would lead from Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea to Karachi on the Indian Ocean coast.

The article makes the point that UN diplomats in Geneva believe that behind the war in Afghanistan is a struggle among Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and the U.S. to secure access to the rich oil and natural gas reserves of the Caspian Sea.

Washington and the U.S. oil companies have been and are deeply involved in the Afghanistan turmoil. The CIA spent several billion dollars a year cobbling together an army from various landlord bands in order to bring down the progressives who governed in Kabul from 1979 to 1992.

They could tolerate a brutal, backward Taliban regime if it stabilized the situation so exploitation could proceed in relative peace. But whether that's what they'll get is still to be seen.