Afghanistan: Taliban group in Herat ready to join peace process, guard TAPI project

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KABUL (TCA) — A group of 70 Taliban militants are ready to join the peace process in support of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural-gas pipeline project in Afghanistan, TOLOnews reported on March 4 citing local officials.

Herat provincial council chairman Kamran Alizai said they held negotiations with the group of Taliban, which numbers 70. According to him, the militants are prepared to join the peace process.

Alizai said the group has some preconditions for joining the peace process, one of which is that they are given jobs.

“The armed group who has taken up arms and fights against the government has suggested to the provincial council that they will join the peace process if they are employed on the TAPI project and also, they will take part in maintaining the project’s security,” said Alizai.

Herat governor Mohammad Asif Rahimi meanwhile welcomed the group’s move and said the local government will provide them with employment opportunities after they join the peace process.

“The peace door is open, the peace offer has been offered to all the anti-government armed groups,” said Rahimi.

The group’s intention comes just days after another group of 10 insurgents also joined the peace process in support of the TAPI project.

Construction of the Afghan section of TAPI was inaugurated by leaders and senior officials from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and India on February 23.

The 1,814-kilometer gas pipeline will pass through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. At least 816 kilometers of the pipeline will pass through the territory of Afghanistan.

The pipeline passes through Herat, Farah, Nimroz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces of Afghanistan.

Taliban earlier said it will help in security of the project if needed, “because the outline of the project was first prepared during the Taliban regime” in 1996-2001.

According to the Taliban’s statement, most areas which the pipeline passes through in Afghanistan are under its control.

Sergey Kwan

TCA