A summit has been set up between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan for the initialling of a deal to build a $3.2 bn. pipeline from Turkmenistan down to South Asia. It is scheduled for Dec. 26-27 in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashkabad (Ashgebot). The pipeline would stretch from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Gwadar, and will be funded in part by the World Bank. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai will be there but it is unclear who will represent Pakistan.
India in particular is an emerging market for this gas, and Pakistan has already waived any objections to the pipeline going over to India, as well. Afghanistan and Pakistan would collect substantial tolls on the gas, and desperately poor Turkmenistan would get some much needed income.
Dawn reports that “The project has seven stages including feasibility, survey, design and engineering, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance and installation of gas processing plant in Gwadar.”
The obstacles to this pipeline plan are formidable. There has been heavy fighting for months around Shindand between Herat warlord Ismail Khan’s forces and those of a rival. Gas pipelines are especially vulnerable to terrorism and sabotage, in which the Taliban and al-Qaeda specialized. Given that the US has not yet provided order to Afghanistan and that fair numbers of Taliban and al-Qaeda are still in the country, it seems to many observers that this pipeline project is no more than a pipe dream.
Certainly, Afghanistan will need a lot more order and security before it will become feasible, and achieving that goal seems to me at least a decade or perhaps more into the future.