Media Lens has drawn our attention to this month’s article by Antonia Juhasz, an oil industry analyst and Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, and Shukria Dellawar [no image found], an Afghan American who is an independent researcher and Afghanistan security specialist. It was written after their fact-finding visits to Afghanistan in August.
Iraqi oil in foreign hands ‘all but privatized’
Juhasz and Dellawar have highlighted a little-noted energy agenda moving forward, similar to one underway in Iraq, where eight years of war transformed its oil industry into an ‘all but privatised’ industry open to foreign oil companies. ExxonMobil, BP and others are now producing oil in Iraq under some of the most corporate-friendly terms in the world.
However, the Iraq Oil and Gas Law which would have completed privatisation has been halted by public and political opposition. More information about this law can be seen on the site of the Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES).
Could Afghanistan achieve such a coalition?
Juhasz and Dellawar describe its civil society and public sector workforce as under-developed, its government as not only weak and challenged by corruption, but also lacking in both infrastructure and energy sector expertise.
In January 2009 the government implemented a low-profile Hydrocarbon Law that transforms its state-owned oil and natural gas sectors and in April 2011, the Afghanistan Ministry of Mines launched the first tender for Afghanistan’s oil and gas resources.
Contracts offered give greater control, ownership, and profits to foreign oil companies
As in Iraq, the contracts include production-sharing agreements which have been rejected by all the top oil-producing countries in the Middle East. Juhasz and Dellawar explain:
“(Production-sharing agreements) grant long-term contracts (45 years or more, including the exploration phase, under Afghanistan’s law) and greater control, ownership, and profits to the companies than other models . . . (and) would not require foreign companies to invest earnings in the Afghan economy, partner with Afghan companies, or share new technologies.”
Many have suspected that the American invasion of ‘energy-conveyor’ Afghanistan – and Iraq – is part of its global energy strategy. The United States and western energy companies (and their governments) have invested in the countries of the Caspian region since the mid-1990s, when companies began negotiating with the Taliban.
Last month, Afghanistan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani reported, “The implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India TAPI project will begin in 2012 and will be completed in 2014.”
Coincidence: the withdrawal of most of the international troops by the end of 2014
How will the Taliban or local ‘warlords’ react to this? The California-based School of Russian and Asian Studies points out that costs for constructing the TAP are high due to Afghanistan’s mountains and the need for protection. The Taliban is still active and if constructed the pipeline will need to be guarded. Their article adds that if Pakistan and/or India are willing to contribute towards security in Afghanistan, then the TAP/TAPI will become a far more viable option.
Will the interests of the Afghan people be given the slightest consideration?
Media Lens, under a sub-heading: ‘Turning Afghanistan Into A ‘Hub’ And ‘Conduit’ For US Interests’
Institute for Policy Studies, Juhasz and Dellawar article