A U.S. Department of Energy report, issued in June 2001, ranked Turkmenistan’s reserve of natural gas, with more than 101 trillion cubic feet, as the fifth largest in the world.

According to an article in the Irish Times from November last year, “in 1995 the U.S. oil company, Unocal signed a contract to export $8 billion worth of natural gas through a $3 billion pipeline that would go from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan.”

Besides the gas pipeline, Unocal also had considered building, “a 1,000-mile, 1-million barrel-per-day capacity oil pipeline that would link Chardzou, Turkmenistan to Pakistan’s Arabian Sea Coast via Afghanistan,” states the website for the Energy Information Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Fast forward to 2001. The U.S. backs Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan’s current “interim leader.” Coincidentally, he is quite a favorable choice for Unocal. In 1994, Karzai worked as a consultant for Unocal. Before that, Karzai was deputy foreign minister of Afghanistan in 1992 in the wake of the Afghan mujahideen’s assumption of power and the overthrow of Najibullah.

Zalmay Khalilzad was named the new U.S. envoy to Kabul by Bush on Dec. 31, 2001. Khalilzad, an Afghani-American who served in President Reagan’s State Department and President Bush’s Pentagon and influenced the last American adventure in the region when the CIA helped ship surface-to-air missiles to the Mujahideen, the “holy warriors,” who fought against the Soviets. According to a story by UPI from January of 2001, Khalilzad was chief consultant to Unocal in the 1990s.

In 1999, Unocal contributed $125,000 in soft money to the Republican Party and spent over $1.4 million in lobbying expenditures to insure that its special corporate interests would be represented by the U.S. government.

“U.S. influence and military presence in Afghanistan and the Central Asian states, not unlike that over the oil-rich Gulf states, would be a major strategic gain,” V. R. Raghavan, a strategic analyst and former general in the Indian army said to the Asian Times in October of last year. The war on Afghanistan “is the first opportunity that has any chance of making Unocal’s wish come true,” the article states.

On Unocal’s website, they state right up front, “Unocal has received inquiries about a previously proposed pipeline that, if built, would have crossed a part of Afghanistan. We withdrew from that project in 1998, and do not now have – nor plan to have – any projects in that country. We do not support the Taliban in any way whatsoever.”

Time will tell.

Todd Tollefson is the webmaster for People’s Weekly World online, www.pww.org.