HERAT -- The Iranian regime is supporting Taliban attacks against large development projects in Afghanistan in order to delay or halt work to curb economic progress in the country, Afghan officials say.
These ongoing developments come only days after the Taliban vowed to protect the Iranian regime's interests in Afghanistan during a September 16 trip to Tehran.
"With support from outsiders, the Taliban degrade security to prevent work on infrastructure projects that are intended to change the lives of Afghans," said Herat Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi.
"If these projects are implemented, they will provide jobs for all the young people, and terrorist groups won't be able to recruit any of these young people," he said.
"The enemy has always tried to stop economic progress in Afghanistan," Rahimi added. "Every day, it destroys roads, blows up bridges and creates security problems in areas where large and vital projects are being implemented."
The Taliban many times have sabotaged construction of dams in the country, said Muhammad Gul Khulmi, acting minister of Energy and Water, in an interview on September 12 during his visit to Pashdan Dam in Herat Province.
"Fighting mostly breaks out in the work area of dams as insurgents launch attacks, and this causes the work to stop," he said. "We have always tried to continue dam construction with the help of tribal elders and local residents."
Control of water supplies is the major factor behind the conflict in the western region, especially in Farah, said Abdul Qader Kamel, a political affairs analyst in Herat.
"There is no doubt that Iran is involved in preventing the construction of Bakhshabad Dam in Farah Province and Kamal Khan Dam in Nimroz Province," he added.
"Water is a strategic element and a key issue between the two neighbouring countries," said Kamel, referring to Iran and Afghanistan. "Iran undermines security in Afghan provinces on its border and supports the Taliban to prevent Afghan use of Afghan waters."
"Any time Bakhshabad Dam construction is being discussed, Iran tries to degrade the dam's security with the help of people under its influence, as Iran doesn't want to allow this vital project of Afghanistan to be constructed," he added. "Iranian interference is one of the reasons that the dam has yet to be built."
Continuation of enmity
"Iranians have always expressed their views on the construction of dams in Afghanistan, especially in the western region, and high-ranking Iranian officials have several times spoken about the dams in Afghanistan and issued threats," said Sayed Ashraf Sadaat, a civil society activist in Herat Province.
The moves by the Iranian regime demonstrate Tehran's obvious hostility toward the national interests of Afghanistan and key Afghan projects, he said.
"The Afghan government should consider Iranian threats to the infrastructure projects seriously and stop that country from interfering with and destroying the interests of the Afghan people," Sadaat added.
"Some of the neighbouring countries, through their support of the war in Afghanistan, continue to make it harder for Afghanistan to become self-reliant and gain the ability to successfully implement its infrastructure projects," Mohammad Shoaib Sabet, the governor of Farah Province, said September 16.
"Regardless of any country's interference, we will build Bakhshabad Dam," he added.
"Neighbouring countries have continued to meddle in the implementation of our large projects, and they haven't stopped trying to sabotage them," said Toryalai Taheri, deputy chairman of the Herat provincial council.
With support from insurgents, these countries have always tried to prevent economic progress and the implementation of large infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, he added.
"The neighbouring countries think if Afghanistan achieved a stronger economy, they would lose sales of their products in Afghanistan," added Taheri.
Afghans ready to take up arms
Residents of Herat say they are ready to take up arms in order to ensure security for the large economic projects and stop interference by neighbouring countries.
"Iran has been supplying weapons and money for years to the Taliban to subvert the security of and stop the construction of dams in the western region, especially Bakhshabad Dam in Farah Province," said Javid Azimi, a resident of Herat city. "This interference by Iran is not acceptable to us, and we will never allow it [Iran] to prevent the building of our national projects."
"The neighbouring countries had better understand that Afghans will no longer allow them to prevent the growth and prosperity of their country," he added. "They need to realise that Afghanistan will build all its hydropower dams."
"Iran intends to continue using Afghan water for free as in the past decades by preventing the construction of dams," said Muhammad Naser Walizada, a resident of Herat city. "This country needs to understand that, after such behaviour, we are going to cut the water flow toward it."
"Iran sells its oil and gas to our country at a very expensive price, but it consumes our water for free," he added. "This is not fair, and we call on the Afghan government to prepare a robust programme so that our own people can benefit from these water resources."