Taliban offer ‘security’ for copper, gas projects

Armed group behind much of the violence over the past 15 years, frightening off investors despite its vast resources.

Afghanistan Mes Aynak
Copper deposits beneath the Buddhist ruins of Mes Aynak are some of the world's largest [Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

The Taliban have offered to protect major government projects such as the mining of a big copper deposit and an international natural gas pipeline project to assist the development and prosperity of war-torn Afghanistan. 

The insurgents have been behind much of the violence over the last 15 years that has frightened off investors, leaving Afghanistan unable to tap its vast natural resources and build the infrastructure necessary to wean itself off foreign aid.

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The armed group, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, maintains its fight is against foreign military forces and the foreign-backed government, not ordinary Afghans.

“The Islamic Emirate not only backs all national projects which are in the interest of the people and result in the development and prosperity of the nation but are also committed to safeguarding them,” the Taliban said in a statement.

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“The Islamic Emirate directs all its mujahideen to help in the security of all national projects that are in the higher interest of Islam and the country.”

The fighters identified the $3bn Mes Aynak copper deposit in Logar province, near Kabul, as one project they would protect.

A Chinese company was awarded the mining contract nine years ago, but has yet to start production because of poor security and a lack of transport infrastructure.

The Taliban also mentioned the $10bn Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, and a regional electricity-generation effort linking Central Asia and South Asia, known as CASA-1000.

The Taliban statement came a day after the official launch of a railway link with neighbouring Turkmenistan.

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The armed group has been responsible for damaging millions of dollars worth of bridges and other infrastructure in just the last three months, however, the presidential palace noted.

“We are waiting to see the Taliban turn their statements into practice,” said palace spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi.

The vulnerability of Afghanistan’s infrastructure was underlined this year when power lines supplying the capital, Kabul, were cut, causing weeks of blackouts. The Taliban denied responsibility.

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Source: Reuters