Making the TransAfghanistan Pipeline Safe for Democracy
by McCamy Taylor
Published: Dec. 05. 2009 – DemocraticUnderground
I don’t pretend to know why President Obama is so determined to escalate the war in Afghanistan, the country that drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy. Maybe he covets the executive privilege that goes with being a war time president. Maybe he is courting the center and center-right in anticipation of the 2012 election. Maybe he does not want to bring too many troops home all at once for fear of worsening the economic recession at home. Maybe he is scared of being called a waffler a flip flopper or some other unpleasant name if he goes back on his word. Maybe he is afraid that terrorists will attack the mainland U.S. again and he will be blamed for ending one of Bush’s foreign wars too soon. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
The only thing I know for certain is that the troops will not be back home until after 2014. That is when the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline is scheduled to be operational.
I. A Brief History of Greed
The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline is the reason the Taliban rose to power. In the mid 1990s, Unocol began plans for an oil and a gas pipeline that would run from the Caspian Sea, through Afghanistan and Pakistan and finally to India. You know, the country where they are sending all our jobs. Unocol and the CIA helped to put the Taliban in power, thinking that the new regime would permit them to build the pipeline.
Intelligence “whistleblower” Julie Sirrs claimed that anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud told her he had “proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul “.<9> And French journalist Richard Labeviere said, referring to the later 1990s, “The CIA and Unocal’s security forces … provided military weapons and instructors to several Taleban militias.
Once in power, the Taliban failed to keep its part of the bargain. Since fucking with a U.S. corporation is grounds for death, Unocol petitioned the U.S. Congress to force the Taliban out and replace it with a regime that would uphold the good old fashioned American value of making money.
The country has been involved in bitter warfare for almost two decades. The territory across which the pipeline would extend is controlled by the Taliban, an Islamic movement that is not recognized as a government by most other nations. From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of our proposed pipeline cannot begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders and our company.
In spite of this, a route through Afghanistan appears to be the best option with the fewest technical obstacles. It is the shortest route to the sea and has relatively favorable terrain for a pipeline. The route through Afghanistan is the one that would bring Central Asian oil closest to Asian markets and thus would be the cheapest in terms of transporting the oil.
As with the proposed Central Asia Oil Pipeline, CentGas cannot begin construction until an internationally recognized Afghanistan government is in place. For the project to advance, it must have international financing, government-to-government agreements and government-to-consortium agreements.
“An internationally recognized Afghanistan government is in place” was a euphemism for “slap down those lying Taliban bitches and put the fear of Uncle Sam into Afghanistan.”
No significant action was taken on this request under Bill Clinton. However, the Bush-Cheney administration spent the entire summer of 2001 attempting to persuade the Taliban to change its mind—in a futile effort to avert Enron’s bankruptcy.
Brisard claim O’Neill told them that ”the main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it”.
The two claim the U.S. government’s main objective in Afghanistan was to consolidate the position of the Taliban regime to obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia.
They affirm that until August, the U.S. government saw the Taliban regime ”as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia”, from the rich oilfields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean.
”At one moment during the negotiations, the U.S. representatives told the Taliban, ‘either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs’,” Brisard said in an interview in Paris.
Naik also claimed that Tom Simons, the U.S. representative at these meetings, openly threatened the Taliban and Pakistan.
”Simons said, ‘either the Taliban behave as they ought to, or Pakistan convinces them to do so, or we will use another option’. The words Simons used were ‘a military operation’,” Naik claimed
We all know what happened next. The Taliban said “Fuck you.” Unfortunately for them, Enron , W.’s biggest campaign donor desperately needed to build the gas pipeline, since it would help fuel its floundering Dabhol Power Plant, the one in India, a country which was refusing to honor its agreement to pay Enron for doing nothing (imagine that). Enron was on the verge of bankruptcy and it could not wait any longer.
In addition, Enron had invested in natural gas fields and had no way to move its product:
Enron was facing a financial crisis, and the pipeline would make Enron lands in the Caspian Basin very valuable. Enron had just purchased enormous tracts of land in Turkmenistan and gambled that the pipeline would make the acquisitions very profitable. Construction of the TAP would also make it possible to get cheap natural gas to the Dabhol, India, power plant, which was then a huge financial liability for Enron and General Electric.
So, the Bush administration did not attempt to prevent the 9-11 attacks, of which it had been warned. Instead, it drew up the plans for the invasion of Afghanistan, which were ready to go on 9-12.
On Dec. 22, 2001
The US-backed interim government headed by Hamid Karzai took office in Kabul, Afghanistan (44a). (Hamid Karzai had formerly functioned as a Unocal Corporation consultant)
Almost immediately, talks resumed about the planned Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline.
The new deal on the pipeline was signed on 27 December 2002 by the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2005, the Asian Development Bank submitted the final version of a feasibility study designed by British company Penspen. Since the United States military overthrew the Taliban government, the project has essentially stalled; construction of the Turkmen part was supposed to start in 2006, but the overall feasibility is questionable since the southern part of the Afghan section runs through territory which continues to be under de facto Taliban control.
So, in order to build that pipeline, the U.S. would need to subdue the Taliban. However, Bush and Cheney had turned their attention to the oil fields of Iraq, in an effort to realize the NeoCon dream of world domination through control of third world oil supplies (or, at least, oil company profits through control of third world oil supplies). They did not have the man power to fight two full scale wars on two fronts. And with Enron bankrupt, Dabhol and the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline had to take a backseat to the needs of Chevron (Condie’s old company).
II. There’s a New Sheriff in Town
A change of administrations provides big business with lots of opportunities. If your company was snubbed by one party’s president, maybe the other party will be more obliging.
During his campaign, Barack Obama talked often of withdrawing troops from Iraq (the unpopular war) to shift them to Afghanistan (the “good” war). No doubt, many progressives thought that he was engaging in political posturing. This stance allowed him to be whatever the voters wanted him to be. For those who wanted peace, he was the man who would get us out of Iraq. For those who wanted their new president to be part John Wayne, he was the president who would furnish a more satisfying war somewhere else. A war about which America could “feel good”, since the Taliban was responsible for 9/11.
However, somewhere between the debates and election day, George W. Bush and the banksters of America wrecked the economy. Unemployment began to rise. Suddenly the center, which was losing its jobs, no longer cared to spend its money kicking third world ass. It wanted jobs and unemployment benefits and health care.
Surprisingly, the newly elected President Obama continued to insist that he wanted to escalate the fighting in Afghanistan, even though this was now an unpopular position with all but the most idiotic members of the right wing, people who would never vote for Obama in a million years. Why?
Whenever something does not make sense in the United States, I follow this simple rule. Look for the money. Keep in mind that it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to run for president in this country, and no one raises that kind of cash from the nickels and dimes people extract from their piggy banks.
III. Dollars and Sense
More on the proposed pipeline:
The 1,680 kilometres (1,040 mi) pipeline will run from the Dauletabad gas field to Afghanistan. From there TAPI will be constructed alongside the highway running from Herat to Kandahar, and then via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan. The final destination of the pipeline will be the Indian town of Fazilka, near the border between Pakistan and India.
The pipeline will be 1,420 millimetres (56 in) in diameter with a working pressure of 100 atm. The initial capacity will be 27 billion cubic meter (bcm) of natural gas annually of which 2 bcm will be provided to Afghanistan and 12.5 bcm to both Pakistan and India. Later the capacity will increase to 33 bcm. Six compressor stations are to be constructed along the pipeline. The pipeline is expected to be operational by 2014.
The cost of the pipeline is estimated cost at US$7.6 billion. The project is to be financed by the Asian Development Bank.
The United States is one of the main members of the Asian Development Bank.
Now, why should we give a rat’s ass if Caspian Sea natural gas can be transported to Pakistan and then to India? If we are employees of General Electric or if we are indebted to GE for months of favorable coverage on its news program MSNBC and in its magazine Newsweek we would care. Because GE is still up to its neck in Enron’s old Dabhol Power Plant—which needs natural gas to run.
GE Energy has signed an eight-year agreement with Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt Ltd ((RGPPL) for equipment supply and rehabilitation of
machines for the Dabhol power plant, the complete revival of which will ensure reliable electricity supply to energy-starved Maharashtra.
Of the six turbines at Dabhol, only three are working, each having a capacity of 310 MW.
GE and RGPPL have inked a Comprehensive Service Agreement
and Rehabilitation Agreement, whose total deal value is understood to be around $130 million.
$130 million. Almost enough to run for president of the United States. However, the plant has run into problems due to lack of natural gas. The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline should solve those problems once and for all.
Who will build this $6 billion (plus cost over runs) pipeline? I don’t know. Maybe Halliburton will bid. I can be pretty sure that the company that wins the contract is going to be very, very pleased to have U.S. troops in the country to help protect its investment.
WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
Major General Smedley D. Butler
One final word about GE. Recall how the company and its news networks and magazine turned on George W. Bush back in 2005. GE became very down on the war in Iraq, way before the other members of the corporate media. Is it possible that the company was not against war? Maybe they just wanted to war moved back up to Afghanistan, so that the stalled pipeline project could be resumed.