Taliban may target new TAPI gas pipeline project

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Ashgabat, Dec 11 (ANI): Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (TAPI) are set to sign a gas pipeline deal today, but with a planned route that passes through two of the fiercest Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, the pipeline's security remains a serious concern.

The presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan and the petroleum minister of India have reportedly gathered in the capital of gas-rich Turkmenistan to finalize the last remaining details.

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Stuart Gordon, researcher on the International Security Program at London-based think tank Chatham House, as saying that the Taliban could target the pipeline project.

"The difficulty with this pipeline will be if it is seen as politically significant in any way, it may well become a target for Taliban," he added.

He further claimed that this project "will heavily rely on deals with local communities to ensure security and that is going to be difficult to deliver."

Nevertheless, the TAPI pipeline's route is seen by many as a stabilizing corridor, linking neighbours together in economic growth and prosperity.

This gas pipeline will also challenge a rival project involving Iran, which was to run from Iran to India via Pakistan (IPL). However it was stalled due to security issues and the strong opposition from the US because of Iran's nuclear program.

The 7.6 billion dollars TAPI project is seen as a potential alternative to the Iranian supply line, which would deliver 33 billion of cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year from the giant Dauletabad field in southeast of Turkmenistan, the paper said.

TAPI project was proposed in mid 1990s, but for years it remained a dream because of the instability in Afghanistan and later in Pakistan. The idea was revived in 2005 with the help of the Asian Development Bank, which sponsored the feasibility study for this project. This year, Turkmenistan, losing significant business over a rift with Russia, pushed hard to finalize the agreement, it added. (ANI)

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