A Taliban delegation has paid a surprise visit to Turkmenistan to pledge support for a planned natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan, providing welcome reassurance for a project whose viability has long been rendered doubtful by security concerns.

According to Eurasianet, signs point to the trip having been brokered by the U.S. government, which has long championed what is known as TAPI, named after the four countries the pipeline would cross: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Turkmenistan Foreign Ministry says a meeting between senior representatives of the Turkmen Foreign Ministry and a delegation of the Taliban Movement Political Office led by the head of this Office Molla Abdul Ghani Baradar took place on in Ashgabat on February 6  

In the course of the constructive negotiations, the parties reportedly underlined the significance of the establishment and maintenance of peace and stability in Afghanistan. 

In this regard, it was noted that Turkmenistan has given significant support for Afghan people, contributed to the development of Afghan economy, primarily strategically important fields such as energy, transport, connectivity and communications.

The significant projects in the aforementioned fields are “Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India” pipeline, high voltage electric power transmission line, fiber-optic connection along “Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan” route, as well as railways connecting Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

The delegation of Political Office of Taliban movement reportedly expressed full support to the implementation of the above-mentioned infrastructure projects aimed at ensuring well-being and prosperity for Afghan people.

The representatives of Afghan delegation made a statement to the press and answered questions from journalists after the negotiations.

Eurasianet says Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban’s Qatar-based negotiation team, told reporters in Ashgabat on February 6 that his movement was offering “full support for the implementation and security of TAPI and other developmental projects in our country.”

Shaheen explicitly addressed the most commonly aired worry about the prospects for TAPI by assuring his hosts that not only would the project not be targeted for attacks, but that the Taliban was committed to ensuring its safety.

“We are trying to contribute to prosperity of our people and development of our country by providing protection to all projects,” Shaheen said in English, reading from a written statement.