Afghanistan’s natural gas industry will be able to expand to Turkmenistan now that the two countries have opened the first link on their new railway system. The first 55 miles of railway connecting the two countries opened in Turkmenistan on Monday, according to Reuters. However, the link is only the first of a nearly 250-mile long project, and authorities aren't actually sure when the project will be completed due to Afghanistan’s security concerns.
Turkmenistan is known for exporting natural gas, mostly in China after buyers in Moscow put a hold on gas purchases earlier in 2016. However, the new railway could potentially boost the former Soviet republic's economy by providing easier transport access for oil-rich countries like Afghanistan, which has limited resources and funds to export natural gas to China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and other neighboring countries.
The last link on the railway stops at the Ymamnazar customs control point, where Turkmenistan officials have created an entire oil product terminal capable of holding approximately 540,000 tons of gas. In Afghanistan, the rail link is planned to run to the Auina dry port in the Faryab province into Tajikistan. However the Taliban’s comeback in Afghanistan has brought project extensions to a halt, as Tajikistan officials reportedly said they would not build rail links into Afghan territory until the country can regain control over the group.
At the opening ceremony Afghan President Ashraf Ghani thanked Turkmenistan leaders for the “millions and billions of dollars” the country has already invested in Afghanistan’s government restructure and stability programs while assuring the project’s completion.
Although the war in Afghanistan is still underway, the Taliban has lost some momentum due to a lack in funding from other Afghan and Arab supporters over the past year. Taliban senior diplomat Mullah Rahmatullah Kakazada told The Guardian on Tuesday that the organization was facing a financial struggle due to a shortage of donations, resulting in limited Taliban access to health services and new weapons. Kakazada said that people were starting to pull back on donations because of the rising number of children and civilians being killed by Taliban orchestrated mines.