Regarding Turkmenistan's Oil and Gas Deal and UNOCAL:
In 1995, the Unocal oil company signed a tentative agreement with the Turkmenistan government to research the possibilities of constructing an oil pipeline to Pakistan by way of Afghanistan.
As the project developed, Unocal began to seek the agreement of the Taliban, who had seized power in Kabul in September 1996. On two separate occasions, in February and December 1997, Taliban officials were flown to the US to meet with, and be wined and dined by, Unocal executives.
Up until 1998, when it became clear that the Taliban were in alliance with the al Qaeda terrorist network, Clinton administration officials actively lobbied Taliban officials on behalf of Unocal.
In 1997, Zalmay Khalilzad, at that time a consultant with Cambridge Energy Research Associates, conducted risk assessments for Unocal on their proposed 1440 kilometre pipeline project to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan.
A member of the Project for a New American Century lobby group set up by current US Vice-President Dick Cheney and US war secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 1997, Khalilzad was appointed by President George Bush in December 2001 to be the US Special Envoy to Afghanistan, supervising the creation of Karzai's regime.
The following chronology tracks Unocal's involvement in the pipeline project:
October 1995 Unocal and Turkmenistan signed an agreement to give Unocal the right to buy natural gas, transport it to Pakistan, and market it. Unocal and Turkmenistan also signed an agreement in 1995 to develop an oil pipeline through Afghanistan.
August 13, 1996 Unocal and Delta Oil Company announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding with Gazprom and Turkmenrusgaz as additions to a consortium to build a pipeline that would cost an estimated $2 billion. Unocal and Delta were to hold 85 percent of the project.
September 26, 1996 Taliban forces took the capital city of Kabul. The United States initially expressed optimism about the possibility of new stability in the country, with a State Department spokesman reportedly expressing hope that "the new authorities in Kabul will move quickly to restore order and security and to form a representative interim government that can begin the process of reconciliation nationwide." The State Department backed away from this position within days, calling the situation "quite murky." Similarly, a Unocal executive reportedly told wire services that the pipeline project would be easier to build with the Taliban's control of Kabul; Unocal quickly retracted this statement. Sources: Elaine Sciolino, State Dept. becomes cooler to the new rulers in Kabul, New York Times, October 23, 1996. Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in Central Asia (Yale University Press, 2001).
February 1997 Taliban representatives visited Washington D.C., where they met with State Department officials and Unocal. Source: Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in Central Asia (Yale University Press, 2001).
October 1997 The Central Asia Gas (CentGas) pipeline consortium was formed, with Unocal serving as its development manager. Source: here.
November 1997 Taliban representatives met with Unocal in Houston. According to a report by Caroline Lees of the Telegraph, the Taliban representatives visited the Houston zoo, NASA space center, a Super Target store, and the home of a Unocal vice-president. Source: Caroline Lees, "Oil barons court Taliban in Texas," Sunday Telegraph, December 14, 1997
August 1998 The United States launched a cruise missile attack against a training camp affiliated with Osama Bin Laden. Immediately afterwards, Unocal announced that it had suspended all activities involving the proposed pipeline project, citing "sharply deteriorating political conditions in the region." "We have consistently informed the other participants that unless and until the United Nations and the United States government recognize a legitimate government in Afghanistan, Unocal would not invest capital in the project. Contrary to some published reports, Unocal has not - and will not - become a party to a commercial agreement with any individual Afghan faction."
December 4, 1998 Unocal announced that it had withdrawn from the CentGas consortium for "business reasons" and that it "no longer has any role in supporting the development or funding of this project."
February 16, 1999 Unocal reiterated that it had no role with CentGas.
May 20, 2002 Unocal's chairman reiterated that it had no plans to become involved in any projects with Afghanistan.
Source: Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in Central Asia (Yale University Press, 2001). Elaine Sciolino, State Dept. becomes cooler to the new rulers in Kabul, New York Times, October 23, 1996. Caroline Lees, "Oil barons court Taliban in Texas," Sunday Telegraph, December 14, 1997. The U.S. Energy Information Administration's report on Afghanistan is on-line here.