Afghan government skeptical about Taliban pledge to protect infrastructure projects

KABUL (TCA) — The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has expressed skepticism about a promise by Taliban militants to support and protect development projects in Afghanistan which benefit the country, RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan reported.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s president, said last week that Taliban fighters have been responsible for damaging millions of dollars’ worth of bridges and other key infrastructure projects in Afghanistan in the last three months.

His comments came after the Afghan Taliban on November 29 said it would protect major government projects like a long-delayed Chinese mine at the Mes Aynak copper deposit in Logar Province and the proposed $10 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline.

The Taliban also mentioned a regional electricity generation project linking Central Asia and South Asia, known as CASA-1000.

Murtazawi said at least 302 schools, 41 health centers, 50 mosques, 5,305 residential houses, 1,818 shops, 1 government compound, 6 bridges, 170 culverts, 123 kilometers of road, 203 retention walls, and 84 service centers were either destroyed or received serious damages in the past 2 months, Khaama Press Afghan news agency reported.

This comes as the Taliban has been accused of incurring the majority of civilian casualties in the Afghan conflict.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released the latest civilian casualties report which stated at least 3,726 civilians were killed or wounded between January and June of this year.

The UN mission said the civilian casualties in the country had reached a record number since the counting began in 2009, with 5,166 civilians recorded killed or maimed in just the first six months of this year, of whom almost one-third were children.