Taliban hydro scheme raises tension with Pakistan

The Taliban regime's announcement of plans for construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Kunar River is escalating tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 480-kilometer Kunar River originates in the Hindu Kush mountains of central Afghanistan and merges with the Kabul River, which in turn flows into Pakistan where it joins with the Indus. The proposed reservoir and use of the Kunar's waters for irrigation within Afghanistan would mean less water for agriculture in Pakistan, officials protest. One Pakistani provincial minister said that a unilateral decision by the Taliban to build the dam "will be considered a hostile act against Pakistan." Jan Achakzai, information minister for the border province of Balochistan, warned of "severe consequences," including "potential conflict."

Pakistani officials speculate that New Delhi has a hand in the proposed project. India previously helped built the Salma Dam, also known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, on Afghanistan's Hari River in 2016. The Hari flows into Turkmenistan, and forms part of the border between that country and Iran. (EurAsian Times, Samaa TV [warning: spam pop-ups], RFE/RL

Enforcement of a Taliban edict banning opium cultivation has placed Afghanistan's farmers under greater economic pressure, raising the imperative for irrigation and other agricultural development projects.