Karzai signs deal for pipeline project
1,000-mile route cuts through Taliban land
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with regional leaders Saturday to sign an agreement for a massive energy project that could eventually net his country billions of dollars in revenue: a 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline whose proposed route cuts through the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.
As if to highlight the complications facing the project, at least 26 people were killed in attacks Friday and Saturday, including a Taliban commander and several people believed to be with a private security company, Afghan and NATO officials said.
The United States strongly supports the proposed pipeline because it could draw Central Asia’s significant energy resources to Pakistan and India and bypass Iran, Washington’s top adversary in the region.
Karzai met with Turkmen, Indian and Pakistani officials in Ashgabat, the capital of neighboring Turkmenistan, to sign the accord.
“On this very important occasion, let me once again highlight our vision for regional cooperation, which is to contribute to regional stability and prosperity,” Karzai said in a statement, “and to enhance the conditions for Afghanistan to resume its central role as a land bridge in this region.”
But the proposed $7.6-billion TAPI Gas Pipeline project and any revenue it may generate may be years away. The planned route passes from Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic, through territory unsettled by insurgencies, including the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and the Pakistani city of Quetta, which is considered the home of the Taliban leadership.