Taliban establishes ‘investment consortium’ with firms from Russia, Iran and Pakistan

Taliban has set up a consortium of companies, including some in Russia, Iran and Pakistan, to create an investment plan focusing on power, mining and infrastructure, the Taliban’s acting minister of commerce said on Wednesday.

Speaking to Reuters, Nooruddin Azizi, the Taliban’s acting minister, said the consortium included 14 Afghan businessmen. He said his ministry had signed a memorandum of understanding with the foreign companies who would send delegates to Kabul to look into projects worth up to $1 billion.

According to Azizi, the Taliban administration was focused on launching several long term business plans including the consortium and special economic zones, and that it was working on ensuring security.

“Lots of discussions on security have taken place in cabinet meetings also, commissions have been established and … the hiding places (of militants) have been destroyed,” he said.

He said the Taliban “will ensure security and will support the private sector in the security field.”

Azizi told Reuters that in addition to mining and power projects, the consortium looking at building a second tunnel through the Salang pass that connects Afghanistan’s north to the rest of the country, and a project to divert water from northern Panjshir province to the capital as well as re-building the main highway connecting Kabul to western Herat province.

He said the Taliban administration was planning to focus on building special economic zones it hoped would attract foreign investment. According to him, the commerce ministry has helped develop a plan to convert former foreign military bases into these zones.

He also said that shipments of oil, gas and wheat under a major deal with Russia last year had begun arriving in Afghanistan by road and rail through Central Asia, after payments were made via banking channels. This was done despite sanctions that have limited many international payments. He did not however elaborate on which banks had facilitated the payment.