News and Analysis

Taliban Stopped Paying Electricity Providers, Kabul Now Facing Blackout
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- AUGUST 20, 2021: Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, a leader of the Taliban affiliated Haqqani network, and a U.S.-designated terrorist with a five million dollar bounty, deliver his sermon to a large congregation at the Pul-I-Khishti Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.

The Taliban has stopped paying foreign electricity providers, leaving Kabul, Afghanistan, on the verge of a blackout.

Afghanistan gets most of its electricity from Central Asian suppliers, according to The Wall Street Journal, but the Taliban, which is now in charge of the Afghan government, has stalled on paying electricity providers and on collecting money for the service from customers, threatening to plunge the country back into the “dark ages.”

“The consequences would be countrywide, but especially in Kabul. There will be blackout and it would bring Afghanistan back to the Dark Ages when it comes to power and to telecommunications,” one of the few remaining employees of Afghanistan’s state-run electricity company, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), told the WSJ. “This would be a really dangerous situation.”

Many of DABS employees have resigned, including its chief executive, after the Taliban took control. The government and many of its services are at a “standstill,” the WSJ notes, as the Taliban handles more pressing priorities, like reinstitution corporeal punishment for various crimes. A “Taliban cleric” is now in charge of DABS.

“Electricity imports from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan account for half of Afghanistan’s power consumption nationwide, with Iran providing additional supplies to the country’s west. Domestic production, mostly at hydropower stations, has been affected by this year’s drought. Afghanistan lacks a national power grid, and Kabul depends almost completely on imported power from Central Asia,” the WSJ said.

For Kabul, the power has mostly stayed on since mid-August, when the Taliban blitzed into the capital city, prompting a swift and largely haphazard withdrawal by coalition forces who had been providing security. It appears, though, that the current abundance of power in Kabul happened because the Taliban, which are now in charge, are no longer attacking the city’s power supply — a regular occurrence before they controlled the Afghan government.

The Taliban, though, have done little to endear themselves to neighboring countries, endangering their supply of electricity. Although Afghanistan’s DABS has been in debt to places like Tajikistan for some time, a friendly relationship between the neighboring nations allowed Afghanistan to continue receiving electricity despite being behind on its bills.

That may not be the case for much longer, per Yahoo News.

“DABS needs around $90 million to address its liabilities,” one official told media. “These include debts to power suppliers in neighboring Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.” The Taliban has refused to allow DABS to use the money in its accounts to pay back debt and with the Taliban now in charge, it is unlikely the situation will change.

The Taliban also has little incoming cash; whatever aid Afghanistan might have received from foreign governments has slowed to a trickle as the United Nations and other coalitions try to grapple with how to treat the Taliban, formerly an enemy for most coalition partners and, until recently, a recognized partner of global terror organization.

“Tajikistan has given shelter to leaders of the anti-Taliban resistance, such as former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, and recently deployed additional troops to its border with Afghanistan, prompting Russia to call on both nations to de-escalate,” The Wall Street Journal added.

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