by Julio Godoy
(IPS) PARIS --
new book by two French intelligence analysts claims that at the behest of U.S. oil companies, the Bush administration initially blocked FBI investigations into terrorism, while it bargained with the Taliban for the delivery of Osama bin Laden in exchange for political recognition and economic aid.
In the book "Bin Laden, la verite interdite" ("Bin Laden, the forbidden truth"), which hit bookshelves in Paris Nov. 15, the authors, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, claim that FBI deputy director John O'Neill resigned in July to protest the policy.
Brisard claims O'Neill told him that "the main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia."
The authors say the U.S. government's main objective in Afghanistan was to consolidate the position of the Taliban regime and thereby obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia.
They say that until August, the U.S. government saw the Taliban regime "as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia," from the rich oilfields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean.
Until now, says the book, "the oil and gas reserves of Central Asia have been controlled by Russia. The Bush government wanted to change all that."
But confronted with the Taliban's refusal to accept U.S. conditions, "this rationale of energy security changed into a military one," the authors claim.
"At one moment during the negotiations, the U.S. representatives told the Taliban, either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs," Brisard said in an interview in Paris.
According to the book, the Bush administration began to negotiate with the Taliban shortly after taking power in January. U.S. and Taliban diplomatic representatives met several times in February in Washington, Berlin and Islamabad.
To burnish their image in the United States, the Taliban even hired a PR representative in Washington, Laila Helms. The authors say that Helms was well-versed in the arcana of U.S. intelligence agencies because her uncle, Richard Helms, is a former director of the CIA.
The last meeting between U.S. and Taliban representatives took place in August, five weeks before the attacks on New York and Washington, the analysts maintain.
On that occasion, Christina Rocca, at the time head of Central Asian affairs for the State Department, met the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan in Islamabad.
Brisard and Dasquie have long experience in intelligence analysis. Brisard was until the late 1990s director of economic analysis and strategy for Vivendi, a French company. He also worked for French intelligence, and wrote a report in 1997 on the now notorious al Qaeda network headed by bin Laden.
Dasquie is an investigative journalist and publisher of Intelligence Online, a respected newsletter on diplomacy, economic analysis and strategy, available on the Internet.
Brisard and Dasquie also note that Bush and his closest aides have strong ties to the oil industry.
Bush's family made their money from Texas oil. Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and the Secretaries of Commerce and Energy, Donald Evans and Stanley Abraham, have all worked for U.S. oil companies.
Until the end of last year, Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, a company that provides services to the oil industry. From 1991 to 2000, Rice was a manager for Chevron. Evans and Abraham worked for Tom Brown, Inc., another oil company.
Besides the secret negotiations held between Washington and Kabul, the book examines the role played by Saudi Arabia in fostering Islamic fundamentalism, the personality of bin Laden, and the networks that the Saudi dissident built to finance his activities.
Brisard and Dasquie contest the U.S. government's claim that it had been seeking to try bin Laden since the attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. "Actually," Dasquie says, "the first state to officially prosecute bin Laden was Libya, on the charges of terrorism."
"Bin Laden wanted to settle in Libya in the early 1990s, but was hindered by the government of Muammar Qaddafi," Dasquie claims. "Enraged by Libya's refusal, bin Laden organized attacks inside Libya, including assassination attempts against Qaddafi."
Dasquie also discusses the role of the Islamic Fighting Group (IFG), reputedly the most powerful Libyan dissident organization, based in London, and directly linked with bin Laden.
"Qaddafi even asked that Western police institutions, such as Interpol, pursue the IFG and bin Laden, but never obtained cooperation," Dasquie says. "Until today, members of IFG openly live in London."
The book confirms earlier reports that the U.S. government worked closely with the United Nations during the negotiations with the Taliban.
"Several meetings took place this year, under the arbitration of Francesc Vendrell, personal representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to discuss the situation in Afghanistan," say the authors.
"Representatives of the U.S. government and Russia, and the six countries that border with Afghanistan, were present at these meetings," it says. "Sometimes, representatives of the Taliban also sat around the table."
These meetings, also called "6+2" because of the number of states (six neighbors plus U.S. and Russia) involved, have been confirmed by Naif Naik, former Pakistani Minister for Foreign Affairs.
In a French television interview two weeks ago, Naik said during a "6+2" meeting in Berlin in July, the discussions focused on "the formation of a government of national unity. If the Taliban had accepted this coalition, they would have immediately received international economic aid."
"And the pipelines from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would have come," he added.
Naik also claimed that Tom Simons, the U.S. representative at these meetings, openly threatened the Taliban and Pakistan.
"Simons said, 'either the Taliban behave as they ought to, or Pakistan convinces them to do so, or we will use another option.' The words Simons used were 'a military operation,'" Naik claimed.
November 19, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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