05 February 2009

Will the Taliban return to Texas?

While cruising the Web, I stumbled across a BBC article from December, 1997, that nicely illustrated what a fast-moving world we live in. The article, entitled Taliban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline, began with, "A senior delegation from the Taliban movement in Afghanistan is in the United States for talks with an international energy company that wants to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan."

The company was Unocal, headquartered in Sugarland, Texas. A competitor, the Argentinian firm Bridas, was claiming it was close to signing a deal with Afghanistan to build the pipeline; however, Unocal thought it was still in the running and in fact was already training staff.
It had arranged with the University of Nebraska to train Afghan men in the skills required for pipeline construction and was planning to train women in administrative skills. Surprisingly, the misogynistic Taliban had not objected to the latter.

Unfortunately, as Robbie Burns said,
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley." And these schemes did indeed "gang agley." Civil war persisted in Afghanistan, then came 9/11 and the Taliban haven't been invited to Texas since.

But can they look forward to an invitation sometime in the future? Don't count it out. Events in Afghanistan suggest a real possibility that they could form part of a future government. And their theological soul mates the Saud clan of Saudi Arabia are welcome in Texas any time. At the Bush ranch, no less. The Taliban's religious thuggery is offensive to just about every Western value, but oil and gas trumps principle every time. It certainly does for the Sauds. So, yes it's possible. Unocal may yet get its pipeline.

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