Taliban to Benefit from US Electricity Project in Afghanistan?

The Taliban in Herat. An electricity project by the U.S. in Afghanistan is said to benefit local insurgents. Photo by: bluuurgh

The United States’ investment of USD100 million to upgrade the Kajaki hydropower plant in Afghanistan, and win the support of locals, could have an unintended beneficiary: the Taliban.

 Afghan officials say almost half of the total electrical output has flowed to districts in Helmand province where the Taliban is in charge of the grid, according to author and journalist Yaroslav Trofimov in a report for the Wall Street Journal. Consumers pay their monthly electric bills to the insurgents who, in turn, use these funds for warfare against U.S. and British troops.

 The Kajaki plant is the biggest source of electricity in south Afghanistan. Trofimov notes that, in effect, U.S. taxpayers are financing an initiative that benefits the enemy.

 Much of the fighting takes place in Helmand, said to be a Taliban stronghold and considered the deadliest province for troops of the U.S.-led coalition.

 “The more electricity there is, the more money the Taliban make,” said Hajji Gul Mohammad Khan, tribal-affairs adviser in Helmand.

 Ahlullah Obaidi, director for electricity and water in Helmand, said it is very easy for the Taliban to control electricity as transmission cables cross districts they control.

 U.S. and civilian officials have been at odds for months over providing more funds for the Kajaki project. Civilian officials are for the hydropower plant’s long-term potential while U.S. military commanders favor quick fixes such as installing diesel-powered generators in Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital.

About the author

  • Chiden Balmes

    Chiden, a correspondent based in Seoul, focuses on computer-assisted reporting to provide international development professionals with practical business and career information. He also contributes to the Development Newswire and the Global Development Briefing, two of the world's highest-circulation development publications.

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