Today, Afghanistan is again seen as a viable trade route for commerce. Not for silks and satins, spices, fine china, jewels, and even slaves, but for fossil fuels, the riches of our modern age. Although very few deposits of oil or gas can be found within its borders, there are huge untapped reservoirs that have been located to its west in the Caspian Sea Basin that is surrounded by the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and tiny Georgia.
The following chronology shows the events that brought the Taliban to power, their ouster by the US, and efforts to meet the needs noted above:
1978 -- April 27th- a small Communist clique, not backed by the Soviet Union, grabs power in Kabul.
1979 -- July - President Carter signs a secret directive ordering the CIA to work with the clique's opponents -- mainly warlords who object to the group's policies of education for girls and for land reform -- in hopes that the Soviets would be drawn into the conflict. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's Foreign Policy Advisor, acknowledged to a French newspaper in 1998 that the US objective in 1979 had been "to give the Soviets their Vietnam." [Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998.]
1989 -- February 15th -- Last Soviet troops leave. The Soviets tried for ten years to bring the country under the control of the Kabul government. (They must be enjoying a last laugh since our troops have now been there for eight years, going on nine, giving us our second "Vietnam.")
1996 -- September -- Taliban emerge as dominant force after various factions in Afghanistan began fighting among themselves when the Soviets left.
1997 -- December 17th -- A UK newspaper reports that Taliban representatives were in Texas hoping to sign an agreement with UNOCAL, an oil consortium based in California, for construction of an oil pipeline across Afghanistan, which would then head south to a port on the Indian Ocean. [CounterPunch, January 10, 2002]
1998 -- February 12th- John Maresca, a UNOCAL executive, clarified the situation when he told the House Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific, "construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan cannot begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company." In other words, a stable government, uniting all of Afghanistan, was seen as crucial to protecting their investments.
1998 -- August 20th -- President Clinton sends cruise missiles to strike NATO-built Taliban camps in Afghanistan and to destroy a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, in retaliation for embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for which bin Laden and Al Qaeda were held responsible.
2001 -- January -- July - Secret negotiations go on between the Bush administration and the Taliban throughout the first seven months of Bush's presidency.
2001 -- Mid-July - US warns Taliban that if they do not hand over Osama bin Laden, who was there as a "guest" after being told to leave Sudan, the US will retaliate by bombing the country and instituting sanctions.
Clinton had also wanted to grab Osama bin Laden. He planned a secret operation with the head of Pakistan to capture him, but it had to be canceled when that government changed hands. However, Bush added to this objective his demand that the Taliban sign an agreement furthering the oil interests of US corporations in Central Asia.