Title/Description: FACTSHEET -- Afghanistan and Oil Interests in Central Asia
Author/Source: FOIL List?
Date: September 2001
This factsheet is intended simply to offer a brief history of US oil interests in Central Asia; most of it is drawn from the Department of Energy’s own circulars.
1. “Afghanistan’s significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea.” (DOE)
2. Afghanistan was a major natural gas supplier the Soviet Union in the 1970s, supplying 70-90% of its natural gas output to that region. By the late 1990s, Afghanistan’s production had dropped drastically due to the Soviet invasion and the ensuing civil war. Currently it is estimated that Central Asian oil and natural gas is more than ten times the reserves held by Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan also has an estimated 400 million tons of coal reserves.
3. Only 6% of Afghanistan’s population have access to electricity; the rest use diesel, firewood or manure for fuel.
4. In January 1998, the Taliban signed an agreement that would allow a proposed 890 mile, $ 2 billion natural gas pipeline project undertaken by Centgas, an international consortium led by Unocal. Project finalization was delayed by the continuing civil war. In December 1998, Unocal announced that it was pulling out of the consortium.
5. Beside the gas pipeline, Unocal had also considered building a 1,000-mile pipeline linking Turkemenistan to Pakistan’s Arabian coast via Afghanistan. The continuing civil war which stems from opposition to the Taliban makes these projects unviable until the situation is resolved. The DOE points out that for a range of reasons, “including high political risk and security concerns…financing for this project remains highly uncertain.”
6. The Taliban has not always been seen as a US enemy and its capture of power in Afghanistan was seen by US oil interests as “very positive” (Christoper Taggart, VP of Unocal). Originally, a policy of “engagement” was attempted with high level officials such as Robin Raphel holding high level meetings with the Taliban in Khandahar to smooth the passage for US oil interests. These negotiations eventually failed leading to a breakdown of relations between the Taliban and the US governments.
7. An improvement in Afghanistan’s “political and military situations”—a stable, U.S and Europe friendly government would be of great importance to the fulfillment of these projects.
Some more sources for Oil and Afghanistan:
http://pages.prodigy.net/gmoses/nvusa/does2401.html#OVER (US Energy Information Administration)
Article on Iran-Iraq war by Stephen R. Shalom including a short section title "Some Crude History." Shalom is author of Imperial Alibis : Rationalizing U.S. Intervention After the Cold War. South End Press. 1992
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