A high power delegation of the Taliban, led by the head of its political office in Qatar, Molla Abdul Ghani Baradar, recently visited Turkmenistan. They met the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Turkmenistan, Rashid Meredov, on 6 February 2021.
At our website and in the News Bulletin we have reported on the meeting and the outcome statement issued by the Taliban.
A video clip where the spokesman of the Taliban, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, is making the press statement about the result of the meeting can be seen at this link at the official website of the foreign office of Turkmenistan: https://www.mfa.gov.tm/en/news/2470
Here is the portion of the statement of Suhail Shaheen where he pledges the support of the Taliban for the infrastructure projects initiated by Turkmenistan in Afghanistan:
“Today, here, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, we had negotiations with the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, Mr. Rashid Meredov and his delegation, which took place in an open and friendly atmosphere. During the meeting, we gave a positive assessment to the policy of neutral Turkmenistan towards Afghanistan and the many years of political and economic support to Afghanistan that has been, is and will be provided by neighboring Turkmenistan.
“Turkmenistan, as a Muslim, neighboring, neutral state, has been taking initiatives for a number of years aimed at establishing peace and development in Afghanistan.
“The implementation of infrastructure projects in Afghanistan initiated by Turkmenistan deserves special attention and assessment. There is no doubt that the early start of construction of projects such as TAPI, TAP and railways from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan will contribute to the achievement of peace and economic development in Afghanistan. At a time when, on the one hand, there is a struggle for the independence of our country, we, in turn, ensuring the protection of all national projects implemented in our country, are trying to make the necessary contribution to the well-being of our people and the development of the state.
“In this regard, as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, we declare our full support for the implementation and security of the TAPI project and other infrastructure projects in our country.”
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There is a breed of analysts and observers that we call the ‘Coco-Dandy’ crowd.
Actually, Coco-Dandy means nothing. We just took two random words and put them together to convey the mouthfuls of emptiness this breed of analysts and observers frequently dishes out.
Take the case of the visit of the Taliban to Turkmenistan.
Someone writing for Eurasianet has speculated that the visit was facilitated by the USA.
It is a classic example of how the mind of the Coco-Dandy breed works. — This assertion rides on the back of a double-decker assumption: 1. The USA can actually make things happen in this part of the world; and 2. Turkmenistan and the Taliban need a third party to come together for a meeting.
As far as the claim of the USA facilitating the visit of the Taliban to Turkmenistan is concerned, we would like to point out that just recently the Taliban delegation visited Iran and Russia. Were those visits also facilitated by the USA?
For the base assumption of the Coco-Dandy breed that the USA can actually make things happen in this part of the world, they need to look at the outcome of the American adventure in Afghanistan.
The fact of the matter is that the Taliban are going to be the majority partners in the future system of Afghanistan. As such, they need to exchange notes with the regional partners of Afghanistan.
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Consistency in absurdity is a trademark feature of the Coco-Dandy breed.
Every time the Taliban declare support for the infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, this crowd feigns surprise and voices doubts.
What do the Taliban support, and why?
To find this, we need to look at the official policy of the Taliban, a policy that has remained unchanged over the years.
Molla Baradar, who led the delegation to Turkmenistan and who is the number two in the Taliban hierarchy, made a comprehensive statement on the policy of the Taliban in his speech at the Centre for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (Doha Institute) on 10 December 2020.
Here are the relevant portions from his speech that answer some key questions:
The Islamic Emirate is not pursuing monopoly over power following the independence of Afghanistan, rather it seeks an inclusive Islamic government with all Afghans in our beloved homeland.
The Afghan nation has presented every type of human and material sacrifices for the past four decades for the sovereignty of our homeland and our religious and Afghan values along with the establishment of an Islamic system, and it continues to strive for this exact goal.
The future Islamic government must take the following steps to secure our higher national interests and prosperity of our people:
One way for an Islamic government to discharge its responsibilities and provide services to the people is by constructing and protection public welfare facilities. The Islamic Emirate considers national assets such as bridges, tunnels, dams, power plants, electrical substations, mines, educational institutes, madrasas, mosques, schools, universities, health centers, hospitals along with other public utilities and infrastructure as the shared property of all, and its protection and proper utilization for public welfare its obligation.
1 – Political relations:
The Islamic Emirate, in line with higher homeland interests, seeks positive and constructive relations with world countries and specifically regional countries on the basis of reciprocity.
In the framework of neutrality, it seeks to strengthen and grow positive and balanced relations instead of negative regional competition.
The Islamic Emirate has no foreign agenda. We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries nor will we allow others to interfere in our affairs and use the soil of Afghanistan against the security of another country including our neighbors.
The Islamic Emirate is committed to international law in the framework of Islamic principles and national interest. We do not want our country to be an arena for unhealthy competition and rivalry among regional and world countries. Rather as an independent, sovereign and strong country, we seek resolution to issues and stabilization of world and regional specifically Islamic countries.
2 – Economic ties:
Afghanistan is in need of foreign investment and is naturally prepared for such undertakings because our country serves as a point of convergence between south and central Asia due to its geographical location. We want Afghanistan to have strong trade relations with all regional countries.
The complete text of the speech of Molla Baradar can be found at the official website of the Taliban — http://alemarahenglish.net/?p=40373
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Let’s now focus on a specific area: support of the Taliban for TAPI.
There is the need to recall, even though it hits a raw nerve of the delicate Coco-Dandy breed, that the Taliban were the original partners in the Trans-Afghan gas pipeline, which is the predecessor of TAPI.
In the earliest planning by Bridas and its later continuation by Unocal, the Taliban were onboard for the gas pipeline carrying Turkmen gas through the territory of Afghanistan to South Asia.
It was actually the Northern Alliance that was opposed to the idea.
In February 2018, at the launch of the TAPI segment in Afghanistan, the Taliban against expressed their support for the project. They called it a national asset.
The Taliban want quick implementation of TAPI and they have blamed the government for the delaying tactics.
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Shifting back the focus to the Turkmen side, we know that 2021 is the International Year of Peace and Trust.
Turkmenistan has already opened some vital infrastructure objects with Afghanistan and reached a breakthrough in the joint development of a previously disputed hydrocarbon field with Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea. — All of this within the first month of this year.
And now, the vocal and unconditional support by the Taliban for the TAPI Corridor projects.
The pace is impressive. We might actually gain traction for Peace and Trust if no one actually goes out of the way to disrupt the flow.
There is another thing that will take some time to acquire full appreciation —– Through its initiatives Turkmenistan has fully integrated energy into the concept of connectivity. We shall return to it in some later commentary. /// nCa, 8 February 2021