Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, December 10th, 2018

Afghanistan Ready to Play Connector Role in Eurasian Integration

Afghanistan Ready to  Play Connector Role in  Eurasian Integration
KA BUL - The inauguration of TAPI – the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline – signals Kabul is on-board with the grand project of Eurasian integration one of the top roller-coaster sagas in what, some years ago, I christened Pipelineistan, has yielded a definitive twist. The US$8 billion,1,814-kilometer Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) was officially inaugurated on Friday, in full pomp, and with proceedings broadcast live on Afghan TV, on the Turkmen-Afghan border close to Herat. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani hosted Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and India’s Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar. Assuming there are no major glitches – and that’s a major “if” – TAPI should, in theory, be finished by 2020. So far, though, endless deadlines have come and gone. TAPI simply cannot exist without Taliban approval. According to a statement by Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusuf Ahmadi, “the Islamic Emirate views this project as an important element of the country’s economic infrastructure and believes its proper implementation will benefit the Afghan people. We announce our cooperation in providing security for the project in areas under our control.” Another Taliban faction, led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, also let it be known, via spokesman Mullah Abdul MananNiazi, that, “we will not allow any group or state to disrupt this project.” When Ahmadi claims TAPI was initially planned when the Taliban were in power in Kabul from 1996 to 2001, he’s correct. The Taliban were wined and dined in Houston in 1997, as I reported for Asia Times, but nothing came out of it. The haggling was all about transit fees All of the above is code for the Taliban getting their cut – which happens to have been the key point of contention ever since the first Clinton administration decided the then rulers of Afghanistan were worth doing business with. So when spokesman Ahmadi claims TAPI was initially planned when the Taliban were in power in Kabul from 1996 to 2001, he’s correct. The Taliban were wined and dined in Houston in 1997, as I reported for Asia Times, but nothing came out of it. The haggling was all about transit fees. For Kabul, the game from now on is about providing adequate security – from construction to operation. After all, this is a major job-creating project bound to involve 30,000 Afghan workers and yield US$500 million annually for Kabul in transit rights. Rumors swirled in Herat about a bunch of unidentified jihadis, allegedly trained in Iran, planning to attack the inauguration ceremony. There has been no confirmation whatsoever that this is the case – either from Afghan or Iranian sources. Even President Ghani rejected the outlandish idea that Tehran would sabotage TAPI. The rumors should be traced to a Pipelineistan mini-Cold War between TAPI and IPI – the competing Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, which, under pressure from the Bush and Obama administrations, was eventually reduced to IP. (AT)