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The Taliban statement came following a similar statement, issued by the group’s breakaway faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, assuring the project’s safety.

Days after leaders and representatives of the countries involved celebrated the inauguration of the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline, the Afghan Taliban – in an unprecedented announcement – vowed to support and protect the $10-billion transnational project in areas under its control.

Claiming that the project was initially planned during the Taliban regime, Qari Mohammad Yusuf Ahmadi, a purported spokesperson of the militant outfit, mailed a statement to media outlets, saying, “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.”

The Taliban statement came following a similar statement issued by the group’s breakaway faction – led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool – in which it assured to extend support to the project and prevent domestic and foreign groups from endangering the success of the gas pipeline.

Ina statement to the local media, Maulawi Abdul Manan Niazi said, “We will not allow any group or state to disrupt this project.”

Earlier on Friday, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, along with leaders of the other three countries, inaugurated the long-awaited 1814 kilometers (1130 miles) pipeline project, which will be stretching from Turkmenistan and feed gas to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – thereby connecting the energy-rich Central Asian nation with the South Asian countries.

The inauguration ceremony which was held amid tight security in Afghanistan’s western Herat province marked the presence of eminent leaders – including Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and India Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar.

Stating that the project is the start of a new beginning for the region, Ashraf Ghani said, “We hope that this project [TAPI] will pave the way for hundreds of other projects and the hope is that our future generations will view this not only as the inauguration of a project and an economic corridor, but the foundation of a shared vision which will help us fight poverty, unemployment, extremism and insecurity in our region.”

“The policy of cooperation will ensure prosperity for our people, and economic prosperity is an important pillar of security and stability,” he added.

Further terming TAPI as “people’s pipeline”, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar said, “Any good idea can become vulnerable to bad intentions. Alas, a great concept only invites greater challenges. Large investments demand care and caution. Safety of the transnational pipeline and assured supply of gas is vital. TAPI will traverse through space and seasons of violence. We have full faith in Afghanistan’s commitment to secure transmission and in the courage of its security forces — but the responsibility must also be shared. Every partner must make a solemn commitment to act against terrorists who hurt the welfare of the people; and to deny terrorists sanctuary and safety. TAPI is a dove in a storm; we must protect it with all our will and capacity.”

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