U.S. sees natural gas as Afghan booster

Nov. 16, 2011 at 9:39 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. government acknowledges the efforts made by its partners in Central Asia to boost energy security in the region, a diplomat said from Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited New Delhi in July to put Washington's support behind the so-called new Silk Road of transnational networks of economic and transit connections, including energy infrastructure.

Turkmenistan aims to deliver natural gas through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India from its vast domestic reserves. Islamabad hosted a delegation from Ashgabat this week to put impetus behind the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

Robert Blake, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, said TAPI would help bring stability to cash-strapped and war-torn Afghanistan.

"Central Asia can also export its surplus energy supplies to feed hungry energy markets in South Asia to continue to power economic growth," Blake said in a statement. "Already Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India are making steady progress on the TAPI gas pipeline."

The Asian Development Bank announced in September it approved of $754 million in new financing to help link Afghanistan's mineral and energy sector to the region.

TAPI is seen as a rival to Iran's plans to build a gas pipeline to Pakistan. Islamabad said it needs to explore as many options as possible to allay lingering energy security concerns.

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