Afghan notes

Feb. 16, 1998
The Taliban Islamic militia, which controls the southern two thirds of Afghanistan, plans to revive the defunct national oil company and resume oil and gas exploration. Mawalavi Ahmad Jan, acting mines and industries minister, said reactivation of the Afghan National Oil Co., which the Soviets abolished after invading Afghanistan in 1979, would help revive the nation's war-shattered economy. He said, "The company was established 20 years back by Afghan experts who had studied in the U.S.
Patrick Crow
Washington, D.C.
[email protected]
The Taliban Islamic militia, which controls the southern two thirds of Afghanistan, plans to revive the defunct national oil company and resume oil and gas exploration.

Mawalavi Ahmad Jan, acting mines and industries minister, said reactivation of the Afghan National Oil Co., which the Soviets abolished after invading Afghanistan in 1979, would help revive the nation's war-shattered economy.

He said, "The company was established 20 years back by Afghan experts who had studied in the U.S. and Russia...and its revival will play an important role in exploration of gas and oil."

Ahmad Jan did not say when the company would be restarted or where it might explore.

He said the Soviets disbanded the Afghan national oil company to keep the nation dependent upon Russia.

Afghanistan used to ship gas to the Soviet Union, but the export pipeline was closed after the communist-backed government in Kabul fell in the early 1990s.

Prospects

Ahmad Jan said France's Total had been active in Paktika province, in the south near Pakistan, and Heart province, in the west near Iran. But, he said, the Russians halted exploration, although preliminary work showed that both provinces had oil prospects.

"The document that we have shows that there is lot of oil in Katawar and in Ahmad Abad of Heart, which is only 40 km away from Iran. Among the many oil wells, there is one in Heart with a depth of 600 m, and people have extracted oil from it," he said. He gave no further details.

Ahmad Jan said Afghans abroad and foreign oil and gas companies have promised to cooperate with the Taliban as soon as the national oil company resumes work.

He said a delegation from a foreign oil company, which he did not name, plans to visit Afghanistan soon for an evaluation.

U.S. angle

Meanwhile, the Taliban has serious political problems in the U.S.

Women's groups here have mounted a very active campaign to persuade Congress and the Clinton administration not to recognize the Taliban government unless it radically improves its treatment of women.

They charge the Taliban routinely discriminates against women and girls and bans them from schools and public places.

Both first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sec. of State Madeleine Albright have condemned the Taliban's policies toward women.

The opposition of women's rights groups poses problems for Unocal Corp., which, with its international partners, wants to build a $2 billion gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan (OGJ, Nov. 3, 1997, p. 30). That project already faces competition from a pipeline proposed by Argentina's Bridas.

If the Clinton administration does not recognize the Taliban government-few nations have done so yet-then oil companies may find it impossible to get international financing for their pipeline projects.

Meanwhile, U.S., European, and Afghan women's groups plan to focus their efforts during International Women's Day, Mar. 8, on the Taliban's treatment of Afghan women.

Copyright 1997 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.