A source at the Afghan embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, provided information to Hasht-e Subh on condition of anonymity, indicating that Ajmal Ahmadi, the former head of the Central Bank and a figure close to former Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, has been irresponsibly intervened in the TAPI project.
The source says that the main executor of the TAPI project was Ajmal Ahmadi, adding that the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum acted symbolically as the legal authority in charge of implementing the project and had little authority to implement it. According to this information, TAPI’s authority was exclusively in the hands of Ajmal Ahmadi.
The source states that the TAPI was a pending project in the Afghan government, stressing that all the decisions regarding the project were monopolized by Ajmal Ahmadi. According to the source, when Ajmal Ahmadi was the president’s economic adviser, the decision-making authority regarding the TAPI was assigned to him, and the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum was sidelined.
Similarly, when Ajmal Ahmadi were in charge of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, he again had the executive authority of TAPI, and the work related to this project was transferred from the President’s economic advisory to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Ajmal Ahmadi’s working team was responsible for proceeding with the executive work.
According to the source, even when Ajmal Ahmadi’s term in the Ministry of Trade and Industry ended and he was appointed as the Central Bank Chief, contrary to all principles and laws, he was in charge of TAPI simultaneously. It was transferred from the Ministry of Trade and Industry to the Central Bank.
The Turkmen government had appointed its Vice President for Oil and Gas as head of the TAPI. Turkmen officials protested that legally and technically, they could not discuss the progress of the project with their Afghan counterpart – a head of the Central Bank.
The former senior official at the Afghan embassy in Turkmenistan claims that the huge sum of money in the TAPI project caused Ajmal Ahmadi to seize all of the project’s executive authority through harassment and illegal influence, working in parallel with the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and supervising the project.
According to the source, Ajmal Ahmadi and a team of people close to him were holding joint working meetings with Turkmen government officials in connection with the TAPI project, without coordination with the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum. According to the source, Ahmadi did not share any information with the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum about the outcome of their meetings with Turkmen officials.
The source added that the news of Ajmal Ahmadi’s involvement and holding meetings with Turkmen officials was sent to the President of Afghanistan in a confidential report by the Afghan Embassy in Ashgabat. But Ajmal Ahmadi did not allow the report to reach the president and continued to interfere illegally in TAPI’s executive affairs.
The source indicates that the TAPI Coordination Office at the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, which was established to promote the project, played a symbolic role in its implementation, and that its staff had no information about the details and commitments of Ajmal Ahmadi’s bilateral meetings with Turkmen officials. .
“Ajmal Ahmadi was the son-in-law of Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, and Ghani believed that Ahmadi was an economic genius,” said the former official at the Afghan embassy in Ashgabat. “He had monopolized the entire executive authority of the TAPI project, which he did not work on to advance the project himself, nor did he allow anyone else to work on the project.”
The source noted that the Afghan Embassy in Ashgabat held joint meetings with the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum in connection with the advancement of TAPI pipeline. But officials at the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum stressed that these meetings would be useless without the presence of Ajmal Ahmadi’s representatives; because all the decision-making powers of TAPI are in the hands of Ahmadi and his team.
Why Didn’t TAPI’s Practical Work Start?
According to the former official at the Afghan Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, TAPI member states did not have the full political will to implement this major regional project, and differences of opinion and tensions between India and Pakistan had led to slow work on TAPI implementation.
According to the source, TAPI member countries, especially India and Pakistan, did not make much effort to start the practical work of this project, and this was one of the most important factors in the slow progress of TAPI project. From the source’s point of view, India and Pakistan did not want their “key source of energy” to be in other countries, and in the event of tension, Turkmenistan’s gas exports would be challenged.
The source believes that India did not want its gas supply to pass through Pakistan and Pakistan was not willing to allow Afghanistan to be supplied with gas by crossing part of the gas pipeline through Afghanistan. In addition, major buyers of TAPI gas, namely Pakistan and India, did not negotiate or agree on a price with Turkmenistan.
In addition, the lack of security and political problems in Afghanistan was another important factor in not starting the practical work of the TAPI project. The fragile security situation in Afghanistan was one of the biggest concerns of India and the project investors, which led to a lack of interest in investing and starting the implementation process.
According to the source, another important factor that delayed the start of TAPI’s practical work was economic problems and the lack of sufficient financial resources. Existing estimates indicate that the implementation of the TAPI will require between $10 billion and $12 billion, and that the Turkmen government will not be able to provide such a sum.
While Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India alone cannot afford the billion-dollar TAPI, Large investment companies and reputable global banks must act to finance it. But due to the lack of sufficient guarantees to return the invested money, companies and banks have not yet agreed to invest in the project.
According to the TAPI project agreement, 85% of the total project budget must be paid by Turkmenistan and the remaining 15% by Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Thus, the share of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, each, is five percent of the total budget required for TAPI.
Why Did TAPI Gas Not Reach Herat?
Four years ago, at the “TAPI Project Launch Ceremony” in Herat, in the presence of the President of Turkmenistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the former President of Afghanistan, promised that TAPI gas would reach Herat in two years – a promise that, like hundreds of other promises, was never fulfilled.
According to Turkmen officials, the country has exercised its share of its territory up to the Turgundi on the border with Afghanistan, and only preparations should be made for practical work on Afghan soil. TAPI gas was to be transferred from the Turkmen border to a gas pumping station in Herat.
A few months before the fall of the Afghan government, Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Murdov traveled to Herat at the head of a delegation and held several meetings with senior Afghan government officials to determine the fate of TAPI.
According to the source, a ceremony was scheduled to take place in late August 2021 with the physical presence of the Presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and the virtual presence of the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India to begin TAPI’s practical work in Afghanistan; But the fall of the Afghan government led to the cancellation of the ceremony.
The source states that the necessary funds for the implementation of the first phase of the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Herat had been provided and the gas required for Herat was to be provided through TAPI. According to the plan, in addition to creating an urban gas system, the fuel needed for cars and factories in Herat Industrial Town was to be supplied with gas energy.
According to the source, after senior Turkmen officials were frustrated by the lack of political will in Pakistan and India to implement TAPI, they decided to carry out the first phase of the project from the Turgundi border to 130-kilometer through Herat gas pumping station. And necessary preparations were made by Turkmenistan.
The former Afghan embassy official in Turkmenistan added that Turkmen officials had asked the Afghan government to determine gas consumption in Herat. However, due to Ajmal Ahmadi’s intervention, the Afghan government was unable to determine the amount of gas consumed in the province, which delayed the start of the project in Herat.
“For example, Turkmen officials had asked Afghanistan to determine the number of cars, houses, factories and other gas-consuming sectors in Herat province alone,” he said. “But six months after Turkmenistan’s request, the Afghan government and Ajmal Ahmadi’s team were unable to compile this statistic and provide it to Turkmenistan.”
However, Ajmal Ahmadi’s illegal interference in the TAPI project, the creation of parallel institutions alongside the responsible legal institutions, and ultimately the lack of proper coordination in the Afghan government left one of the largest and most important economic projects that could change Afghanistan’s fate unresolved and not implemented.
Source: Hasht-e Subh Daily