Photo: 18 August 2021 meeting in Mazar-i-Sharif between Turkmen and Taliban representatives.

The Taliban have confirmed their willingness to build the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline which would export Turkmen gas for the development of Central Asia.

This project had been developed by Argentinian oil magnate Carlos Bulgheroni (Bridas) with the Turkmen government in the 1990s. It was to be financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). But it entered into competition with a project sponsored by California-based UNOCAL. After an agreement between the two companies was reached, negotiations between the United States and the Taliban took place in Berlin in violation of the travel ban issued by the UN Security Council against the Taliban. It was the failure of these talks in the summer of 2001 that sparked the US war against Afghanistan (and not the attacks of September 11, 2001).

UNOCAL negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad happened to have an office in Kandahar (Herat Bazaar Road), next to both the Pakistani consulate and Osama bin Laden’s office. Mr. Khalilzad later became US Ambassador to Afghanistan and then to the UN.

China subsequently picked up the TAPI concept and integrated it into its international projects. Work began in December 2015. Pakistan talked the Taliban into supporting the pipeline as soon as the Americans left. At the end of July 2021, China received the Taliban in Beijing to make sure they would participate in the project.

The Argentinians had good relations with the Turkmens; the United States with the Arab anti-Soviet fighters; the Chinese with the Afghan nationalists.