President Ashraf Ghani on Friday inaugurated construction on the Afghan section of a major regional gas pipeline.
When finished the TAPI pipeline is supposed to carry 33 billion cubic metres of gas every year for 30 years from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India.
Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and India's Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar attended the heavily guarded groundbreaking ceremony in western Herat province.
"Our regional cooperation will turn poverty to strength thus we are investing in regional cooperation," Ghani said, describing the pipeline as a great hope for meeting the region's energy needs.
The Afghan section of the more than 1,800-kilometer-long gas pipeline will stretch 816 kilometres and cross five provinces, a spokesman for the Afghan ministry of mines and petroleum, Abdul Qadeer Mutfi, told DPA.
In many of these provinces, the war with the Taliban is raging. But the Taliban, in an unusual move, months ago signalled support and guaranteed safety for the project.
In an interview, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid repeated the security guarantee and said: "We welcome the start of TAPI gas pipeline project in Afghanistan. It will help our country to stand on its own feet."
According to Mutfi, Afghanistan will earn up to $500mn in transit fees per year and get up to 1.5 billion cubic metres of gas.
"It will also create thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Afghans," Mutfi added.
Work on the pipeline started in 2015 in Turkmenistan and is scheduled to be finished by 2019.
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