Ashgabat, 31 October 2013 (nCa) — Borrowing a tired simile, TAPI is to a drained and dispirited USA what a lifeboat is to the passengers of a sinking ship.
The retreat under the brave euphemism of withdrawal is looming large. The good old US of A, loath to give up its toehold in Central Asia, seems desperate for any fig leave to justify its continued presence in the region.
TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project) seems to have been chosen as one of the several pretexts to maintain military presence in greater Central Asia.
Some news stories have appeared recently, mostly in the Azeri media, conveying the impression that TAPI was all along an American project and the participating countries are just passive players, with no say and no authority. One such is produced in this commentary in full.
On top of that Professor Frederick Starr, the headmaster of CIA students, has written an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, egging the USA to assume leadership role in TAPI. This op-ed is also produced in full in this commentary.
This is absolute and unambiguous politicization of a vital energy project, a project that has taken more than a decade to come so close to implementation. It would be a pity if it gets damaged by the imprudent machinations of a waning superpower.
Not for the hatred of USA but for the love of Central Asia, we would like to draw attention tot eh following points:
- The more vocal the American support for TAPI, the more enemies it would gather in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The people who refused to eat the food air-delivered by Americans cannot be expected to allow a pipeline that comes to be identified with Americans.
- The pronounced and clumsy support of TAPI by a clueless Uncle Sam would draw in equal proportions the suspicion and ire of Russia and China and the regional powers.
- While the USA is left with only its military power, Russia and China are capable of financing the development projects in the region. If the region gives the impression of being under the sway of the USA, the funding pipelines from elsewhere may dry up in retaliation. Since Americans have run out of any money to give to anyone, the region would be left with nothing.
- If, by arm twisting and sweet talking, the USA manages to get the lead role for an American company in the TAPI consortium, the region should resign itself to remain hostage to American whims and wishes for the next thirty years.
U.S. to make decision on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline not earlier than in December
Baku, 23 Oct—Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project previously actively promoted by U.S. is suspended at designing stage.
According to the sources close to the project, today all works on the project are suspended due to preparations for the withdrawal of NATO and U. S. main forces from Afghanistan.
“At the present moment there’s still no clarity in U. S. Administration about the question which of American Agencies will continue their work in Afghanistan after 1 January, 2014, including U. S. Agency on International Development – the main sponsor of TAPI. We expect that the situation with TAPI prospects will be clarified not earlier than in December”, – the source informed.
Meanwhile, the activities around TAPI are still in the process. Thus, by concluding the contract between State Concern Turkmengas and Chinese Company CNPC for sale of 25 bn cu m of gas per year and by purchasing up to 65 bn cu m of Turkmen gas China will get control over TAPI raw materials base. In this regard, Indian Government has already requested Russia to explore the possibility of laying oil and gas pipelines from the Russian oil and gas fields to India.
At that, earlier the Government of Afghanistan postponed the construction tender on TAPI project without mentioning the exact terms of tender postponement, though the earlier-drawn consultants made a feasibility study of the project, presentation of which was appointed for 22-23 November. Today, it is still unclear whether the presentation will be held in fixed terms.
Work-financing U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) previously hurried the consultants in connection with the plans of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. As a result, as consultants had feared, the uncertainty associated with the withdrawal of troops, influenced the timing of the TAPI construction start.
The $7.6 billion agreement for the supply of gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India was signed on the project. It was planned that gas supplies via pipeline system TAPI would begin in December 2014. However, supplies are unlikely to begin in mentioned terms.
World’s leading companies, including Agip and Halliburton, claimed to carry out engineering works. At least 37 million cu m of gas will be delivered daily via TAPI. Drawings of the pipeline were made by American engineers. TAPI pipeline will be laid in a deserted mountainous terrain. Its security will be provided from the air. /// Fineko/abc.az
Link to this story: http://abc.az/eng/news_23_10_2013_76897.html
The Pipeline That Could Keep the Peace in Afghanistan
As the U.S. leaves Afghans on their own, the gas project might help stabilize the region
Professor Frederick Starr
One of the most ambitious and frustrating geopolitical projects on the planet is now within reach—if the U.S. leads in its development. The project is TAPI, a proposed gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The stakes are high. When U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, the pipeline and the cooperation needed to maintain it may be the best hope for regional stability.
The future success of Afghanistan, and relations among Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and the U.S., are just the beginning of potential benefits. Without the pipeline, Iran will be able to manipulate its neighbors more. America’s ability to balance the growing influence of China and Russia in Central Asia and Afghanistan, and U.S. credibility throughout the region, also may depend on TAPI’s completion.
The idea of shipping gas eastward from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan was first proposed immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Deals were signed with American and Argentine firms, but the project went nowhere. Hopes revived after the U.S. helped topple the Taliban regime in late 2001, and energy-poor India asked to join the project in 2008. Despite decades of tension between Pakistan and India, the two countries have cooperated on TAPI for five years.
Clearly, a project of this scale faces serious questions. The initial question of whether Turkmenistan had enough gas to supply Pakistan and India—and meet its contractual obligations to provide gas to China and Russia—was laid to rest in 2006 with the discovery of Turkmenistan’s giant Galkynysh gas field, the second-largest on earth.
Others question whether Afghanistan will ever be peaceful enough so a pipeline can be built across its territory. Yet any future Afghan government will likely defend TAPI if it provides the estimated $300 million to $400 million annually in tariffs. The key will be for Kabul to give some of the receipts back to the provinces. Even the Taliban would back the pipeline if their leaders believe some benefits will flow to their fellow Pashtuns in southeastern Afghanistan.
Then there is the price. Will investors put up the estimated $12 billion to $16 billion needed to build the pipeline? Analyses by the Asian Development Bank have concluded that the project is marketable, and several financial institutions have already expressed interest. However, a major international energy firm, or a consortium, must first commit to it.
Here’s where the U.S. comes in. In recent years, both Chevron and Exxon-Mobil have expressed interest in TAPI. But there is a sticking point. Turkmenistan says it won’t sign an agreement on TAPI until the U.S. government indicates that it is firmly behind the project. Two years ago, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow received a letter backing Chevron’s project from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But he knew that there had been not a word of support from the National Security Council or White House, let alone the U.S. president. This led to suspicions in Ashgabat that Mr. Obama was hanging back.
Some say this silence was caused by Turkmenistan’s bad record on democracy and human rights. But there are winds of change as thousands of Turkmen students sent abroad for study are now returning with new ideas from the larger world. Whether they enter government service, business or education, they are bound to have a liberalizing effect. Meanwhile, a refusal to back TAPI would deny the U.S. any possibility of influencing Turkmenistan in the future.
Now the silence from Washington has ended. Earlier this month, President Obama sent a letter to President Berdimuhamedow emphasizing a common interest in helping develop Afghanistan and expressing Mr. Obama’s support for TAPI and his desire for a major U.S. firm to construct it.
There remains a lot of distance between a general declaration of support and a deal to build TAPI. A framework agreement between the two countries is urgently needed that covers gas and oil issues. This, too, must be signed by both presidents, and not, on the American side, by some lower official.
Washington cannot wait another five years for further action on TAPI. After the U.S. military withdrawal next year, the government of Afghanistan will have few legitimate income streams. TAPI can provide Kabul with hundreds of millions of dollars annually and create an estimated 50,000 jobs for Afghans. It will do so in a way that gives three of the key states in the region—Pakistan, India and Iran—a strategic interest in Afghanistan’s success. Progress on TAPI will also jump-start many of the other trans-Afghan transport projects—including roads and railroads—that are at the heart of America’s “New Silk Road Strategy” for the Afghan economy.
The White House should understand that if TAPI isn’t built, neither U.S. nor U.N. sanctions will prevent Pakistan from building a pipeline from Iran. This supposedly “shovel ready” project will enrich Tehran and greatly enhance Iran’s voice in Afghanistan and the region. If Washington drops the ball on TAPI, China, India or Russia will be tempted to take it up. That will generate tensions among these often competing nuclear powers and leave the U.S. on the sidelines. Russia has already begun pressing India to make it a partner in TAPI.
Strong U.S. support for TAPI is essential. President Obama’s meeting this week with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a good place to begin. Other opportunities must be seized or created to move TAPI swiftly forward. Only in this way will peace and prosperity come to a region too long embroiled in conflict. /// Wall Street Journal, 21 Oct
Link to this article: http://stream.wsj.com/story/latest-headlines/SS-2-63399/SS-2-359978/