TAPI pipeline security needs regional consensus: Experts
KABUL (Pajhwok): Experts on Monday called for a regional consensus to keep security for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that they said would benefit the entire region, asking the Afghan government to create a separate force for its protection.
A 750km portion of the pipeline would pass through Afghanistan’s Herat, Farah, Helmand and Kandahar provinces reaching Pakistan.
Recently, Afghanistan Regional Studies Centre (ARSC) Director Rafiullah Niazi, referring to the project’s importance, had said the project would play a key role in mitigating the political and security tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan and between Pakistan and India. “For this reason we can call it a peace project.”
He had said Afghanistan would earn $400 million annually in transit fee and the project would create jobs for thousands of people in the country. He said people in areas where the pipeline would pass would benefit from the gas.
He said roads would be constructed in Afghanistan as part of the project and that would result into improved economy.
Experts say the security situation in provinces where the pipeline will be laid is not satisfactory and the Afghan government should pay attention this issue.
Atiqullah Amarkhel, a military affairs expert, told Pajhwok Afghan News the TAPI project was a vital regional economic project and its execution needed proper attention from the government.
He said areas where the pipeline would pass through were hard-hit by insurgency and the government should create at least a 2,000-member strong security unit and station them in these areas.
Amarkhel warned the government against granting the security responsibility of the pipeline to Afghan local police or private militias, saying such a move would have dire consequences.
He said if Afghanistan failed to secure its part of the project, the member states might change its direction and deprive Afghanistan of the vital project.
Amarkhel suggested the proposed security unit should be equipped with anti-aircraft artillery, heavy weaponry and other necessary equipment to ensure foolproof security of the pipeline.
In addition to military equipment, he said, the security forces tasked with protecting the TAPI gas pipeline should have the support of ulema, tribal elders and local residents.
The Afghan government has been insisting its security forces are fully capable of safeguarding the TAPI pipeline.
Recently, the Pakistani defence minister, Khawaja Asif, had told the BBC Urdu service that they would engage the Afghan Taliban in talks on security for the TAPI project.
In response, the Afghan government on Sunday issued a statement, calling Asif’s remarks as “irresponsible.”
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