CENTRAL ASIAN OIL, ENRON, AND THE AFGHANISTAN PIPELINES
By Paul Thompson
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Part 1: 1979 - 2000
Part 2: Jan. 2001 - 9/11
Part 3: Day of 9/11
Part 4: 9/11 - Dec. 2001
Part 5: Jan. 2002 - present
|Day of 9/11
Bush on 9/11
This story is so complicated and long, I've tried to break it into threads of different colors to make it easier to digest, as well as the main page, the page for the day of September 11, and the abridged timeline.
Central Asian oil, Enron and the Afghanistan pipelines.
For a separate page of these entries only, click
Information that should have shown what kind of attack al-Qaeda would make. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
US preparing for a war with Afghanistan before 9/11, increasing control of Asia before and since. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Incompetence, bad luck, and/or obstruction of justice. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Suggestions of advanced knowledge that an attack would take place on or around 9/11. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Cover-up, lies, and/or contradictions. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Israeli "art student" spy ring, Israeli foreknowledge evidence. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Anthrax attacks and microbiologist deaths. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Pakistani ISI and/or opium drug connections. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Bin Laden family, Saudi Arabia corruption and support of terrorists, connections to Bush. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Erosion of civil liberties and erection of a police state. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
1991: Future National Security Advisor Rice joins Chevron's board of directors, and works with Chevron until being picked as Bush's National Security Advisor in 2001. Chevron even names an oil tanker after her. Rice is hired for her expertise in Central Asia, and much of her job is spent arranging oil deals in the Central Asian region. Chevron also has massive investments there, which grow through the 1990s. [Salon, 11/19/01]
1991 (B): Bin Laden, having returned from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia and the family business in 1989, moves to Sudan. With a personal fortune of around $250 million (estimates range from $50 to $800 million [Miami Herald, 9/24/01]), he begins plotting terrorist attacks against the US. [New Yorker, 1/24/00]
1991-1997: The Soviet Union collapses in 1991, creating many new nations in Central Asia. Major US oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Texaco, Unocal, BP Amoco, Shell and Enron, directly invest billions in these Central Asian nations, bribing heads of state to secure equity rights in the huge oil reserves in these regions. The oil companies commit to future direct investments in Kazakhstan of $35 billion. These companies face the problem however of having to pay exorbitant prices to Russia to use Russian pipelines to get the oil out. These oil fields have an estimated $6 trillion potential value. US companies own approximately 75% of the rights. [New Yorker, 7/9/01, Asia Times, 1/26/02] FTW
January 20, 1993: Bill Clinton is inaugurated as president, replacing George Bush Sr. He remains president until 2001 (see January 21, 2001).
November 1993: The Indian government gives approval for Enron's Dabhol power plant, located near Bombay on the west coast of India. Enron has invested $3 billion, the largest single foreign investment in India's history. Enron owns 65% of Dabhol. This liquefied natural gas powered plant is supposed to provide one-fifth of India's energy needs by 1997. [Asia Times, 1/81/01, Indian Express, 2/27/00]
October 21, 1995: The oil company Unocal signs a contract with Turkmenistan to export $8 billion worth of natural gas through a $3 billion pipeline which would go from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. Political considerations and pressures allow Unocal to edge out a more experienced Argentinean company for the contract. Henry Kissinger, a Unocal consultant, calls it "the triumph of hope over experience." [Washington Post, 10/5/98]
June 24, 1996: Uzbekistan signs a deal with Enron "that could lead to joint development of the Central Asian nation's potentially rich natural gas fields." [Houston Chronicle, 6/25/96] The $1.3 billion venture teams Enron with the state companies of Russian and Uzbekistan. [Houston Chronicle, 6/30/96] On July 8, 1996, the US government agrees to give $400 million to help Enron and an Uzbeki state company develop these natural gas fields. [Oil and Gas Journal, 7/8/96] However, the deal is later canceled when it becomes apparent a gas pipeline will not be built across Afghanistan, and there is no easy way to get the gas out of the region (see November 1993 and June 1998 (B)).
August 13, 1996: Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia come to agreement with state companies in Turkmenistan and Russia to to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan, the agreement is finalized the next year (see October 27, 1997). [Unocal website, 8/13/96] The Boston Herald later reports that, "The prime force behind Delta Oil appears to be Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi" (see November 22, 2002 (B)) and that his business interests are "enmeshed" with those of Khalid bin Mahfouz (see for instance 1988 and April 1999). Together and separately, al-Amoudi and bin Mahfouz have become "partners with US firms in a series of ambitious oil development and pipeline projects in central and south Asia." [Boston Herald, 12/10/01] The two are later included in a secret United Nations list of financiers funding al-Qaeda (see November 26, 2002).
September 27, 1996: The Taliban conquer Kabul [AP, 8/19/02], establishing control over much of Afghanistan. A surge in the Taliban's military successes at this time is later attributed to an increase in direct military assistance from Pakistan's ISI. [New York Times, 12/8/01] The oil company Unocal is hopeful that the Taliban will stabilize Afghanistan, and allow its pipeline plans to go forward. In fact, "preliminary agreement [on the pipeline] was reached between the [Taliban and Unocal] long before the fall of Kabul. ... Oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America's, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan." [Telegraph, 10/11/96]
October 11, 1996: The Telegraph publishes an interesting article about pipeline politics in Afghanistan. Some quotes: "Behind the tribal clashes that have scarred Afghanistan lies one of the great prizes of the 21st century, the fabulous energy reserves of Central Asia." "'The deposits are huge,' said a diplomat from the region. ‘Kazakhstan alone may have more oil than Saudi Arabia. Turkmenistan is already known to have the fifth largest gas reserves in the world.'" [Telegraph, 10/11/96]
August 1997: The CIA creates a secret task force to monitor Central Asia's politics and gauge its wealth. Covert CIA officers, some well-trained petroleum engineers, travel through southern Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to sniff out potential oil reserves. [Time, 5/4/98]
October 1997: Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (see December 26, 1979) publishes a book in which he portrays the Eurasian landmass as the key to world power, and Central Asia with its vast oil reserves as the key to domination of Eurasia. He states that for the US to maintain its global primacy, it must prevent any possible adversary from controlling that region. He notes that, "The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported Americas engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." Furthermore, because of popular resistance to US military expansionism, his ambitious Central Asian strategy could not be implemented "except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat." [The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, by Zbigniew Brzezinski, 10/97 (the link is to excerpts of the book from a From the Wilderness article)]
October 27, 1997: Halliburton, a company with future Vice President Cheney as CEO, announces a new agreement to provide technical services and drilling for Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia. The press release also mentions that "Halliburton has been providing a variety of services in Turkmenistan for the past five years." On the same day, a consortium to build a pipeline through Afghanistan is formed. It's called CentGas, and the two main partners are Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia. [Halliburton press release, 10/27/97, CentGas press release, 10/27/97]
November 26, 1997: An industry newsletter reports that Saudi Arabia has abandoned plans to have open bids on a $2 billion power plant near Mecca, deciding that the government will build it instead. What's interesting is that one of the bids was made by a consortium of Enron, the Saudi Binladen Group (run by Osama's family), and Italy's Ansaldo Energia. [Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, 1/22/98]
December 4, 1997: Representatives of the Taliban are invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future President Bush Jr. is Governor of Texas at the time. The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials, and the Telegraph reports that "the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban's policies against women and children 'despicable,' appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract." A BBC regional correspondent says "the proposal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan is part of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea." [BBC, 12/4/97, Telegraph, 12/14/97] FTW
December 14, 1997: It is reported that Unocal has hired the University of Nebraska to train 400 Afghani teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipefitters in anticipation of using them for their pipeline in Afghanistan. 150 students are already attending classes. [Telegraph, 12/14/97]
February 12, 1998: Unocal Vice President John J. Maresca - later to become a Special Ambassador to Afghanistan - testifies before the House of Representatives that until a single, unified, friendly government is in place in Afghanistan the trans-Afghani pipeline will not be built. He suggests that with a pipeline through Afghanistan, the Caspian basin could produce 20 percent of all the non-OPEC oil in the world by 2010. [House International Relations Committee testimony, 2/12/98] FTW
Early 1998: Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul (all such meetings are technically illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan). US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a "fabulous opportunity" and are especially motivated by the "prospect of circumventing Iran, which offered another route for the pipeline." [Boston Globe, 9/20/01]
June 1998 (B): Enron's agreement to develop natural gas with the government of Uzbekistan is not renewed (see June 24, 1996). Enron closes its office there. The reason for the "failure of Enron's flagship project" is an inability to get the natural gas out of the region. Uzbekistan's production is "well below capacity" and only 10 percent of its production is being exported, all to other countries in the region. The hope was to use a pipeline through Afghanistan, but "Uzbekistan is extremely concerned at the growing strength of the Taliban and its potential impact on stability in Uzbekistan, making any future cooperation on a pipeline project which benefits the Taliban unlikely." A $12 billion pipeline through China is being considered as one solution, but that wouldn't be completed until the end of the next decade at the earliest. [Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, 10/12/98]
June 23, 1998: Future Vice President Cheney, working for the Halliburton energy company, states: "I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian. It's almost as if the opportunities have arisen overnight." The Caspian Sea is in Central Asia. [Cato Institute Library, Chicago Tribune, 8/10/00]
August 7, 1998: Terrorists bomb the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The bomb in Nairobi, Kenya kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. The bomb in Dar es Salaam kills 11 and injures 85. The attack is blamed on al-Qaeda. [PBS Frontline, 2001]
August 9, 1998: The Northern Alliance capital of Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif, is conquered by the Taliban. Military support of Pakistan's ISI plays a large role; there is even an intercept of an ISI officer stating, "My boys and I are riding into Mazar-i-Sharif." [New York Times, 12/8/01] This victory gives the Taliban control of 90% of Afghanistan, including the entire pipeline route. CentGas, the consortium behind the gas pipeline that would run through Afghanistan, is now "ready to proceed. Its main partners are the American oil firm Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia, plus Hyundai of South Korea, two Japanese companies, a Pakistani conglomerate and the Turkmen government." However, the pipeline cannot be financed unless the government is officially recognized. "Diplomatic sources said the Taliban's offensive was well prepared and deliberately scheduled two months ahead of the next UN meeting" to decide if the Taliban should be recognized. [Telegraph, 8/13/98]
December 5, 1998: In the wake of the al-Qaeda US embassy attacks (see August 7, 1998), the US gives up on putting a pipeline through Afghanistan. Unocal announces its withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. A concern that Clinton will lose support among women voters for upholding the Taliban also plays a role in the cancellation. [New York Times, 12/5/98] FTW
Late 1998 (B): During the investigation of the 1998 embassy bombings, FBI counter-terrorism expert John O'Neill finds a memo by al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef on a computer. The memo shows that bin Laden's group has a keen interest in and detailed knowledge of negotiations between the Taliban and the US over an oil and gas pipeline through Afghanistan. Atef's analysis suggests that the Taliban are not sincere in wanting a pipeline, but are dragging out negotiations to keep Western powers at bay. [Salon, 6/5/02]
June 1999: Enron
announces an agreement to build a $140 million power plant in the Gaza Strip.
One of the major financers for the project comes from
the Saudi Binladin Group, a company owned by Osama's family. This is the second
attempted project between these two companies. 90% complete, the construction
is halted because of Palestinian - Israeli violence and then Enron's bankruptcy. [Washington
July 4, 1999: With the chances of a pipeline deal with the Taliban looking increasingly unlikely, the US government finally issues an executive order prohibiting commercial transactions with the Taliban. [Executive Order, 7/4/99]
December 20, 1999: The BBC explains one reason why the Northern Alliance has been able to hold out for so long in its civil war against the Taliban in Afghanistan: "Iran has stirred up the fighting in order to make sure an international oil pipeline [goes] through its territory and not through Afghanistan." [BBC, 12/20/99] In the summer of 2001 Pakistan and India appear to be leaning towards putting a gas pipeline through Iran but this plan is apparently canceled after the 9/11 attacks (see June 27, 2001).
September 2000: The neoconservative think-tank Project for the New American Century writes a "blueprint" for the "creation of a 'global Pax Americana'" (see also June 3, 1997). The document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century, was written for the Bush team even before the 2000 Presidential election. It was commissioned by future Vice President Cheney, future Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, future Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Florida Governor and President Bush's brother Jeb Bush, and future Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. The report calls itself a "blueprint for maintaining global US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests." The plan shows Bush intended to take military control of Persian Gulf oil whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power and should retain control of the region even if there is no threat. It says: "The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." The report calls for the control of space through a new "US Space Forces," the political control of the internet, the subversion of any growth in political power of even close allies, and advocates "regime change" in China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and other countries. It also mentions that "advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool." A British Member of Parliament says of the report, "This is a blueprint for US world domination -- a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world" (see also Spring 2001 and April 2001 (D)). [Sunday Herald, 9/7/02, click here to download the think tank report] However, the report complains that these changes are likely to take a long time, "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor." [Los Angeles Times, 1/12/03] In an NBC interview at about the same time, Vice Presidential candidate Cheney defends Bush Jr.'s position of maintaining Clinton's policy not to attack Iraq because the US should not act as though "we were an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments." [Washington Post, 1/12/02] This report and the Project for the New American Century generally are mostly ignored until a few weeks before the start of the Iraq war (see February-March 20, 2003).
October 12, 2000: The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by al-Qaeda terrorists. 17 US soldiers are killed. [ABC News, 10/13/00]
January 21, 2001: George Bush Jr. is inaugurated as the 43rd US President, replacing Clinton. The only major figure to permanently remain in office is CIA Director Tenet, appointed in 1997 and reputedly a long time friend of Bush Sr. FBI Director Louis Freeh stays on until June 2001. Numerous figures in Bush's administration have been directly employed in the oil industry, including Bush, Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice. It is later revealed that Cheney is still being paid up to $1 million a year in "deferred payments" from Halliburton, the oil company he headed. [Guardian, 3/12/03] Enron's ties also reach deep into the administration. [Washington Post, 1/18/02]
February 2001 (C): Abdul Haq, a famous Afghan leader of the mujaheddin, convinces Robert McFarlane, National Security Adviser under President Reagan, that Haq and about 50 fellow commanders could lead a force to start a revolt against the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan. However, Haq wants to do this under the authority of Zahir Shah, the popular former king of Afghanistan, whom the US doesn't support. The CIA fails to give any support to this revolt idea. Says one CIA official to McFarlane a few months later, "We don't yet have our marching orders concerning US policy; it may be that we will end up dealing with the Taliban." Haq goes ahead with his plans without US support, and is later betrayed and killed (see Mid-August 2001 (B) and October 25, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (B), Wall Street Journal, 11/2/01]
February 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney is briefed that it has been conclusively proven bin Laden was behind the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). Bush has been in office a matter of days, when secret pipeline negotiations with the Taliban have begun. The new administration has already twice threatened the Taliban that the US would hold the Taliban responsible for any al-Qaeda attack. But, fearful of ending those negotiations, the US does not retaliate against either the Taliban or known bin Laden bases in Afghanistan in the manner Clinton did in 1998. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]
Spring 2001: The Sydney Morning Herald later reports, "The months preceding September 11 [see] a shifting of the US military's focus ... Over several months beginning in April  a series of military and governmental policy documents [are] released that [seek] to legitimize the use of US military force in the pursuit of oil and gas." Michael Klare, an international security expert and author of Resource Wars, says the military has increasingly come to "define resource security as their primary mission." An article in the Army War College's journal by Jeffrey Record, a former staff member of the Senate armed services committee, argues for the legitimacy of "shooting in the Persian Gulf on behalf of lower gas prices." He also "advocate[s] the acceptability of presidential subterfuge in the promotion of a conflict" and "explicitly urge[s] painting over the US's actual reasons for warfare with a nobly high-minded veneer, seeing such as a necessity for mobilizing public support for a conflict." In April, Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf/South Asia area, testifies to Congress in April that his command's key mission is "access to [the region's] energy resources." The next month US Central Command begins planning for war with Afghanistan, plans that are later used in the real war (see May 2001 (F)). [Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02] Other little noticed but influential documents reflect similar thinking (see September 2000 and April 2001 (D)).
April 2001 (D): A report commissioned by former US Secretary of State James Baker and the Council on Foreign Relations entitled "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century" is submitted to Vice President Cheney this month. "The report is linked to a veritable who's who of US hawks, oilmen and corporate bigwigs." The report says the "central dilemma" for the US administration is that "the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience." It warns that the US is running out of oil, with a painful end to cheap fuel already in sight. It argues that "the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma," and that one of the "consequences" of this is a "need for military intervention" to secure its oil supply. It argues that Iraq needs to be overthrown so the US can control its oil. [Sunday Herald, 10/5/02, Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02] In what may be a reference to a pipeline through Afghanistan, the report suggests the US should "Investigate whether any changes to US policy would quickly facilitate higher exports of oil from the Caspian Basin region... the exports from some oil discoveries in the Caspian Basin could be hastened if a secure, economical export route could be identified swiftly" (see also September 2000 and Spring 2001). [Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century, 4/01] Could the Bush administration have let 9/11 happen to get access to Central Asian oil, and gain support for a war with Iraq, amongst other reasons?
May 2001 (G): Vice President Cheney's national energy plan is publicly released. It calls for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and easing regulatory barriers to building nuclear power plants. [AP, 12/9/02] There are several interesting points, little noticed at the time. It suggests that the US cannot depend exclusively on traditional sources of supply to provide the growing amount of oil that it needs. It will also have to obtain substantial supplies from new sources, such as the Caspian states, Russia, and Africa. It also notes that the US cannot rely on market forces alone to gain access to these added supplies, but will also require a significant effort on the part of government officials to overcome foreign resistance to the outward reach of American energy companies. [Japan Today, 4/30/02] The plan was largely decided through Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force. Both before and after this, Cheney and other Task Force officials meet with Enron executives, including a meeting a month and a half before Enron declares bankruptcy (see December 2, 2001). Two separate lawsuits are later filed to reveal details of how the government's energy policy was formed and if Enron or other players may have influenced it, but so far the Bush Administration has resisted all efforts to release these documents (see October 17, 2002 and February 7, 2003 (B)). [AP, 12/9/02] At the very least, it's known that Enron executives met with the Commerce Secretary about its troubled Dabhol power plant in 2001 (see November 1993). [New York Times, 2/21/02] If these documents are released, they could show what the government did to support Enron's Dabhol plant with an Afghanistan gas pipeline.
May 23, 2001: Zalmay Khalilzad is appointed to a position on the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues. Khalilzad is a former official in the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations. During the Clinton years, he worked for Unocal. He is later appointed special envoy to Afghanistan (see January 1, 2002). [Independent, 1/10/02, State Department profile, 2001]
June 2001 (J): Enron's power plant in Dabhol, India, is shut down. The failure of the $3 billion plant, Enron's largest investment, contributes to Enron's bankruptcy later in the year (see December 2, 2001). Earlier in the year, India stopped paying its bill for the energy from the plant, because energy from the plant cost three times the usual rates. [New York Times, 3/20/01] Enron had hoped to feed the plant with cheap Central Asian gas, but this hope was dashed when a gas pipeline through Afghanistan was not completed (see June 1998 (B)). The larger part of the plant is still only 90 percent complete when construction stops at about this time. [New York Times, 3/20/01] It is known that Vice President Cheney lobbies the leader of India's main opposition party about the plant this month. [New York Times, 2/21/02] A lawsuit is in motion to get additional government documents released that could reveal what else the US did to support this plant (see October 17, 2002 and February 7, 2003 (B)). Enron may eventually restart the plant (see October 18, 2002).
June 27, 2001: The Wall Street Journal reports that Pakistan and India are discussing jointly building a gas pipeline from Central Asian gas fields through Iran. This would circumvent the difficulties of building the pipeline through Afghanistan. [Wall Street Journal, 6/27/01] Iran has been secretly supporting the Northern Alliance to keep Afghanistan divided so no pipelines could be put through it (see December 20, 1999). Presumably the US government would be opposed to this, since much of its support for Afghanistan pipelines has been to prevent them from going through Iran (see Early 1998).
Mid-July 2001 (B): John O'Neill, FBI counter-terrorism expert, privately discusses White House obstruction in his bin Laden investigation. O'Neill says:"The main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it." He adds:"All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia." O'Neill also believes the White House is obstructing his investigation of bin Laden because they are still keeping the idea of a pipeline deal with the Taliban open. [CNN, 1/8/02, CNN, 1/9/02, Irish Times, 11/19/01, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)]
July 21, 2001: Three American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs) and Lee Coldren (former State Department expert on South Asia) meet with Pakistani and Russian intelligence officers in a Berlin hotel. [Salon, 8/16/02] It is the third of a series of back-channel conferences called "brainstorming on Afghanistan." Taliban representatives sat in on previous meetings, but boycotted this one due to worsening tensions. However, the Pakistani ISI relays information from the meeting to the Taliban. [Guardian, 9/22/01] At the meeting, former US State Department official Lee Coldren passes on a message from Bush officials. He later says, "I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action." [Guardian, 9/26/01] Accounts vary, but former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik later says he is told by senior American officials at the meeting that military action to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan is planned to "take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest." The goal is to kill or capture both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, topple the Taliban regime and install a transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. Uzbekistan and Russia would also participate (see also December 19, 2000, March 15, 2001 and June 26, 2001). Naik also says "it was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban." [BBC, 9/18/01] One specific threat made at this meeting is that the Taliban can choose between "carpets of bombs" - an invasion - or "carpets of gold" - the pipeline. [Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)] Niaz Naik says Tom Simons made the "carpets" statement. Simons claims: "It's possible that a mischievous American participant, after several drinks, may have thought it smart to evoke gold carpets and carpet bombs. Even Americans can't resist the temptation to be mischievous." Naik and the American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. [Salon, 8/16/02] So then what was the "carpets of gold" phrase referring to? FTW
August 2, 2001: Christina Rocca, the Director of Asian Affairs at the State Department, secretly meets the Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, apparently in a last ditch attempt to secure a pipeline deal. Rocca was previously in charge of contacts with Islamic guerrilla groups at the CIA, and oversaw the delivery of Stinger missiles to Afghan mujaheddin in the 1980s. [Irish Times, 11/19/01, Salon, 2/8/02, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)] FTW
September 11, 2001 (G): The 9/11 attack: four planes are hijacked, two crash into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and one crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. At least 3,000 people are killed. A more detailed timeline focusing on the hours of this attack appears on a separate page.
September 13-19, 2001: Members of bin Laden's family and important Saudis are "driven or flown under FBI supervision to a secret assembly point in Texas and then to Washington from where they left the country on a private charter plane when airports reopened three days after the attacks." The flights to Texas and Washington occur before the national air ban is lifted. [New York Times, 9/30/01] The Tampa Tribune reports that on September 13, a Lear jet takes off from Tampa, Florida, carrying a Saudi Arabian prince, the son of the Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan (see August 2001 (G), August 31, 2001, August 15, 2002), as well as the son of a Saudi army commander, and flies to Lexington, Kentucky, where the Saudis own racehorses. They then fly a private 747 out of the country. Multiple 747s with Arabic lettering on their sides are already there, suggesting another secret assembly point. The Tampa flight left from a private Raytheon hangar. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/01] (Raytheon's name keeps coming up in relation to 9/11 (for instance, see September 25, 2001).) Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US, helps move the bin Laden family out of the US. [London Times, 11/25/02] Ron Motley, the lead lawyer in a 9/11 lawsuit against many Saudis, points to the flights during the air ban as evidence that Saudis are "protected by the Bush administration" because of "oil." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/16/02] There have been conflicting reports as to whether the FBI interviewed these people before they left the country. Osama bin Laden's half brother, Abdullah bin Laden, stated that even a month after 9/11 his only contact with the FBI was a brief phone call. [Boston Globe, 9/21/01, New Yorker, 11/5/01] The existence of these flights during the air travel ban is now usually referred to as an urban legend. [Snopes, 3/19/02]
October 5, 2001: Contrary to popular belief, Afghanistan "has significant oil and gas deposits. During the Soviets' decade-long occupation of Afghanistan, Moscow estimated Afghanistan's proven and probable natural gas reserves at around five trillion cubic feet and production reached 275 million cubic feet per day in the mid-1970s." Nonstop war since has prevent further exploitation, but that soon changes. [Asia Times, 10/5/01] A later article suggests the country may also have as much copper as Chile, the world's largest producer, and significant deposits of coal, emeralds, tungsten, lead, zinc, uranium ore and more. Estimates of Afghanistan 's natural wealth may even be understated, because surveys were conducted decades ago, using less-advanced methods and covering limited territory. [Houston Chronicle, 12/23/01
October 9, 2001 (B): US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin meets with the Pakistani oil minister. She is briefed on the gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan, across Afghanistan, to Pakistan, which appears to be revived "in view of recent geopolitical developments." [Frontier Post, 10/10/01] FTW
October 15, 2001 (C): According to the Moscow Times, the Russian government sees the upcoming US conquest of Afghanistan as an attempt by the US to replace Russia as the dominant political force in Central Asia (see also June 2001 (D)), with the control of oil as a prominent motive: "While the bombardment of Afghanistan outwardly appears to hinge on issues of fundamentalism and American retribution, below the surface, lurks the prize of the energy-rich Caspian basin into which oil majors have invested billions of dollars. Ultimately, this war will set the boundaries of US and Russian influence in Central Asia - and determine the future of oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea." [Moscow Times, 10/15/01] The US later appears to gain military influence over Kazakhstan, the Central Asian country with the most resource wealth, and closest to the Russian heartland (see also December 19, 2001 and March 30, 2002).
December 2, 2001: Enron files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy - the biggest bankruptcy ever (that is, until WorldCom some months later). [BBC, 1/10/02] However, Enron reorganizes as a pipeline company, and it may complete its controversial Dabhol power plant (see October 18, 2002).
December 8, 2001: During a visit to Kazakhstan in Central Asia, Secretary of State Powell states that US oil companies are likely to invest $200 billion in Kazakhstan alone in the next five to 10 years. [New York Times, 12/15/01]
December 22, 2001: Afghani Prime Minister Hamid Karzai and his transitional government takes power in Afghanistan. It was revealed a few weeks before that he had been a paid consultant for Unocal, as well as Deputy Foreign Minister for the Taliban. [Le Monde, 12/13/01, CNN, 12/22/01] FTW
January 2002 (D): It is reported that now the US is improving bases in "13 locations in nine countries in the Central Asian region" (see also September 22, 2001-December 2001 and Early October 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 1/17/02] 60,000 US military personnel now work in these new bases surrounding Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 1/6/02] "Of the five ex-Soviet states of Central Asia, Turkmenistan alone is resisting pressure to allow the deployment of US or other Western forces on its soil...." [Guardian, 1/10/02] "The task of the encircling US bases now shooting up on Afghanistan's periphery is only partly to contain the threat of political regression or Taliban resurgence in Kabul. Their bigger, longer-term role is to project US power and US interests into countries previously beyond its reach. ... The potential benefits for the US are enormous: growing military hegemony in one of the few parts of the world not already under Washington's sway, expanded strategic influence at Russia and China's expense, pivotal political clout and - grail of holy grails - access to the fabulous, non-OPEC oil and gas wealth of central Asia." [Guardian, 1/16/02] On January 9, the speaker of the Russian parliament states, "Russia would not approve of the appearance of permanent US bases in Central Asia," but Russia seems helpless to stop what a Russian newspaper calls "the inexorable growth" of the US military presence in central Asia. [Guardian, 1/10/02]
January 1, 2002: Zalamy Khalilzad, already a Special Assistant to the President (see May 23, 2001), is appointed by Bush as a special envoy to Afghanistan. [BBC, 1/1/02] Khalilzad, a former employee of Unocal, took part in negotiations with the Taliban to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. He also wrote op-eds in the Washington Post in 1997 supporting the Taliban regime, back when Unocal was hoping to work with the Taliban. [Independent, 1/10/02] FTW Now the US envoy is a former Unocal employee consulting with a prime minister who is a former Unocal employee (see December 22, 2001) in a country where Unocal might build gas and oil pipelines (see May 13, 2002).
February 9, 2002: Pakistani President Musharraf and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai announce their agreement to "cooperate in all spheres of activity" including the proposed Central Asian pipeline, which they call "in the interest of both countries." [Irish Times, 2/9/02] FTW
February 14, 2002: The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv astutely notes: "If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in the Afghan war], one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean." Ma'ariv also states, "Osama bin Laden did not comprehend that his actions serve American interests... If I were a believer in conspiracy theory, I would think that bin Laden is an American agent. Not being one I can only wonder at the coincidence." [Chicago Tribune, 3/18/02] FTW
March 30, 2002: With US troops already in many Central Asian countries (see January 2002 (D)), it is now reported that US Special Forces soldiers are training Kazakhstan troops in a secret location. [London Times, 3/30/02] An anonymous source in the Kazakh government previously stated, "It is clear that the continuing war in Afghanistan is no more than a veil for the US to establish political dominance in the region. The war on terrorism is only a pretext for extending influence over our energy resources" (see October 11, 1996). [Observer, 1/20/02]
May 13, 2002: The BBC reports that Afghanistan is about to close a deal for construction of the $2 billion gas pipeline to run from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India. "Work on the project will start after an agreement is expected to be struck" at a summit scheduled for the end of the month. Afghan leader Hamid Karzai (who formerly worked for Unocal) calls Unocal the "lead company" in building the pipeline. [BBC, 5/13/02] FTW The Los Angeles Times comments, "To some here, it looked like the fix was in for Unocal when President Bush named a former Unocal consultant, Zalmay Khalilzad, as his special envoy to Afghanistan late last year." [Los Angeles Times, 5/30/02]
May 30, 2002 (B): Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, Turkmenistan's President Niyazov, and Pakistani President Musharraf meet in Islamabad and sign a memorandum of understanding on the trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project. [Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, 6/8/02, Dawn, 5/31/02] FTW The agreement is finalized by the end of the year (see December 27, 2002).
July 10, 2002: A briefing given to a top Pentagon advisory group states, "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader ... Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies." They are called "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent." This position still runs counter to official US policy, but the Washington Post says it "represents a point of view that has growing currency within the Bush administration." The briefing suggests that the Saudis be given an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States. The group, the Defense Policy Board, is headed by Richard Perle. [Washington Post, 8/6/02] A international controversy follows the public reports of the briefing in August 2002 (for instance, [Scotsman, 8/12/02]). In an abrupt change, the media starts calling the Saudis enemies, not allies of the US. Slate reports details of the briefing the Post failed to mention. The briefing states, "There is an 'Arabia,' but it needs not be 'Saudi'". The conclusion of the briefing: "Grand strategy for the Middle East: Iraq is the tactical pivot. Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot. Egypt the prize." [Slate, 8/7/02] Note that a similar meeting of the Defense Policy Board appears to have preceded and affected the US's decision to take a warlike stance against Iraq (see September 17, 2001 (B) and August 6, 2001 (B)).
August 15, 2002: More than 600 relatives (later rising to over 2,500 out of 10,000 eligible [Newsweek, 9/13/02]) of victims of the September 11 attacks file a 15-count, $1 trillion lawsuit against various parties they accuse of financing al-Qaeda and Afghanistan's former Taliban regime. The defendants include the Binladin Group (the company run by Osama bin Laden's family), seven international banks, eight Islamic foundations and charities, individual terrorist financiers, three Saudi princes, and the government of Sudan. [CNN, 8/15/02, Washington Post, 8/16/02] Individuals named include Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan (see June 1998 (D), August 2001 (G), and August 31, 2001), former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal (see July 1998, August 31, 2001, and October 18, 2002), Yassin al-Qadi (see October 12, 2001), and Khalid bin Mahfouz (see 1988, August 13, 1996, April 1999, December 4, 2001 (B) and Early December 2001 (B)). [AP, 8/15/02, MSNBC, 8/25/02] "The attorneys and investigators were able to obtain, through French intelligence, the translation of a secretly recorded meeting between representatives of bin Laden and three Saudi princes in which they sought to pay him hush money to keep him from attacking their enterprises in Saudi Arabia." [CNN, 8/15/02] The plaintiffs also accused the US Government of failing to pursue such institutions thoroughly enough because of lucrative oil interests. [BBC, 8/15/02] Ron Motley, the lead lawyer in the suit, says the case is being aided by intelligence services from France and four other foreign governments, but no help has come from the Justice Department. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/16/02] The plaintiffs acknowledge the chance of ever winning any money is slim, but hope the lawsuit will help bring to light the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks. [BBC, 8/15/02] A number of rich Saudis respond by threatening to withdraw hundreds of billions of dollars in US investments if the lawsuit goes forward. [Telegraph, 8/20/02] Saudi businesses withdraw more than $100 billion from the US in response to the suit (see August 20, 2002), and the US government later threatens to block or limit the suit (see November 1, 2002).
October 18, 2002 (B): "The massive mothballed Dabhol power project that bankrupt US energy company Enron Corp. built in western India could be running within a year, with a long-standing dispute over power charges close to being renegotiated, a government official said." Dabhol is the largest foreign investment project in India's history. Despite reorganizing from a bankruptcy, Enron still holds a controlling 65 percent stake in the plant, while General Electric Co. and Bechtel Corp. hold 10 percent each. The local Indian state electricity board holds the remaining 15 percent (see also November 1993 and June 2001 (J)). [AP, 10/18/02]
December 13, 2002: Henry Kissinger resigns as head of the new 9/11 investigation (see November 27, 2002). [AP, 12/13/02, ABC, 12/13/02, copy of resignation letter] Two days earlier, the Bush Administration argued that Kissinger was not required to disclose his private business clients. [New York Times, 12/12/02] However, the Congressional Research Service insists that he does, and Kissinger resigns rather than reveal his clients. [MSNBC, 12/13/02, Seattle Times, 12/14/02] It is reported that Kissinger is (or has been) a consultant for Unocal, the oil corporation, and was involved in plans to build pipelines through Afghanistan (see October 21, 1995, and August 9, 1998). [Washington Post, 10/5/98, Salon, 12/3/02] Kissinger claimed he did no current work for any oil companies or Mideast clients, but several corporations with heavy investments in Saudi Arabia, such as ABB Group, a Swiss-Swedish engineering firm, and Boeing Corp., pay him consulting fees of at least $250,000 a year. A Boeing spokesman said its "long-standing" relationship with Kissinger involved advice on deals in East Asia, not Saudi Arabia. Boeing sold $7.2 billion worth of aircraft to Saudi Arabia in 1995. [Newsweek, 12/15/02] In a surprising break from usual procedures regarding high-profile presidential appointments, White House lawyers never vetted Kissinger for conflicts of interest. [Newsweek, 12/15/02] The Washington Post says that after the resignations of Kissinger and Mitchell, the commission "has lost time" and "is in disarray, which is no small trick given that it has yet to meet." [Washington Post, 12/14/02]
December 16, 2002: President Bush names former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean as the Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, after his original choice, Henry Kissinger, resigned (see November 27, 2002 and December 13, 2002). [Washington Post, 12/17/02] In an appearance on NBC, Kean promises an aggressive investigation. "It's really a remarkably broad mandate, so I don't think we'll have any problem looking under every rock. I've got no problems in going as far as we have to in finding out the facts." [AP, 12/17/02] However, Kean plans to remain President of Drew University and devote only one day a week to the commission. He also claims he would have no conflicts of interest, stating: "I have no clients except the university." [Washington Post, 12/17/02] However, he has a history of such conflict. Multinational Monitor has previously stated: "Perhaps no individual more clearly illustrates the dangers of university presidents maintaining corporate ties than Thomas Kean," citing the fact that he is on the Board of Directors of Aramark (which received a large contract with his university after he became president), Bell Atlantic, United Health Care, Beneficial Corporation, Fiduciary Trust Company International, and others. [Multinational Monitor, 11/97] Most disturbing is his Board of Director and Executive Committee positions at Amerada Hess, an oil company with extensive investments in Central Asia. [Amerada Hess, 2002] Fortune magazine points out that through this investment, "Kean appears to have a bizarre link to the very terror network he's investigating - al-Qaeda." [Fortune, 1/22/03] In 1998, Amerada Hess created an alliance with the Saudi oil company Delta Oil, calling it Delta Hess. [Azerbaijan International, 2002] Delta Hess is invested in a number of oil field and pipeline projects in Central Asia (see for instance [Azerbaijan International, 1998]). Delta Oil has been one of the main financial partners in a controversial oil pipeline designed to go through Afghanistan. The company has been financially controlled by Khalid bin Mahfouz, and is connected to Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi (see August 13, 1996). Both men are on a secret United Nations list of al-Qaeda financers (see November 26, 2002), and bin Mahfouz is bin Laden's brother-in-law (see 1988). Fortune calls it an "interesting coincidence" that three weeks before his appointment onto the 9/11 commission, Amerada Hess quietly severed its ties with Delta Oil. [Fortune, 1/22/03] George Mitchell resigned from the commission a few days earlier in part because of ties with al-Amoudi (see December 11, 2002), yet Kean's conflict of interest with Amerada Hess and ties with al-Amoudi and bin Mahfouz have only been mentioned in a short Fortune article and briefly at the end of an AP article. [AP, 1/20/03, Fortune, 1/22/03]
December 27, 2002: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan sign an agreement for the building of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, a US$3.2 billion project that has been delayed for many years. [AP, 12/26/02, BBC, 12/27/02] A study by the Asian Development Bank stated that the pipeline would move natural gas from Turkmenistan's huge Dauletabad-Donmez fields to the Pakistani port city of Gwadar. The pipeline was originally launched in 1996 (see August 13, 1996), but was abandoned when a consortium led by Unocal withdrew over fears of being seen as supporting the Taliban and because the US launched missile attacks on Afghanistan in 1998 (see December 5, 1998). The Afghan, Pakistani and Turkmen leaders relaunched the project in May 2002 (see May 30, 2002 (B)). Unocal has denied it is interested in returning to Afghanistan. Skeptics say the project would require an indefinite foreign military presence in Afghanistan. [AP, 12/26/02, BBC, 5/30/02]