The media call Osama bin Laden a fanatical Islamic fundamentalist. But make no mistake. Far more than any religious belief, it is bin Ladens struggle with U.S. bosses over profit sources that drives him. The same goes for the Koran-thumping Taliban.
In the 1970s and 1980s bin Laden amassed billions as the construction firm he headed built roads, mosques, and military bases for the Saudi government. But the royal family refused to cut bin Laden a share of the even more lucrative oil business, which it reserves for itself and the Exxon Mobil axis. So bin Laden made a bid for state power. In 1990, after Iraq had invaded Kuwait, bin Laden tried to raise an army of his Afghan war veterans [see article] to "safeguard" the country. But the Saudi royals, aided a half a million U.S. troops, prevented the coup. Promptly stripped of Saudi citizenship for this act of treason, bin Laden moved to Sudan and began aiding Exxon Mobils rivals in the guise of a missionary. Bin Laden led an Islamic "anti-poverty" project that built a road from Khartoum to Port Sudan, literally paving the way for an oil export pipeline that the China National Oil Company and Frances Total soon exploited. Non-royal Saudi businessmen, continue to fund bin Ladens cause in Sudan.
From Sudan bin Laden jumped to Afghanistan, where the increasingly powerful fundamentalist Taliban had hopes of becoming energy barons. In the mid 1990s, Unocal and some non-U.S. firms were proposing pipelines that would carry gas and oil from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. "The Talibans control of the pipeline route made the pipeline possible," said the husband of Pakistans president Bhutto (Taliban : Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid ). But almost immediately the Taliban turned against the U.S. oil bosses and vice versa. First, Unocal unilaterally set the Talibans future cut at a miserable 15 cents per 1,000 cubic feet. "The Taliban were incensed because they were not consulted about the gas price, and they demanded a larger transit fee" (Rashid). Then in 1999, Clinton forced Unocal to drop the project entirely. U.S. rulers felt that the Taliban could not or would not guarantee a stable Afhghanistan, especially since Russian influence in the region was rising under the newly elected Putin. From now on, Washington would employ a "get tough" policy against the Taliban.