Ashgabat, Turkmenistan —
Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an ambitious agreement with
the Afghan president Friday to build a gas pipeline through
The 1,460-kilometre Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline would carry
natural gas from the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan to
energy-hungry Pakistan. It would be one of the largest direct
foreign investment projects in Afghanistan in decades.
"It is a project mainly for the next generations of our
countries and important for the energy consumption of the
three countries and the whole region," Afghan President Hamid
Karzai said after signing the deal with Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov and Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah
The project has yet to secure financial backing from
investors leery of making such a massive investment in a
country where U.S.-led forces are still hunting Osama bin
Laden's al-Qaeda network and remnants of the ousted Taliban
Mr. Karzai defended his country's prospects, though, saying
the security situation in Afghanistan "can be considered one
of the best in the region" and his government would do
whatever is necessary to see that the pipeline is
Officials estimate that the pipeline would pump
$300-million (U.S.) in annual transit fees into Afghanistan's
ruined economy and create 12,000 jobs.
The project would also secure an additional source of
energy for Pakistan and provide an additional export outlet
for Turkmenistan, which has the fifth largest natural gas
reserves in the world.
The pipeline, which would carry up to 20-billion cubic
metres of gas a year, could also be extended to India,
The project was proposed in 1997 by a consortium led by
Unocal Corp. But the company abandoned it after the United
States fired cruise missiles into Afghanistan the following
year in a strike against al-Qaeda.
The Japanese conglomerate Itochu has expressed interest in
participating in the pipeline, but so far no company has
stepped forward to take over the project.