HERAT -- The number of incidents involving the destruction of transportation infrastructure in Herat Province by the Taliban has increased by 70% this year compared with the previous year, say local authorities.
About 100 explosions have been recorded along the highways of Herat Province since the beginning of this solar year (March 20), said Sayed Abdullah Hemayat, director of the Herat Department of Public Works. He did not give figures for previous years.
The majority of mine explosions have taken place along the Herat-Islam Qala highway and the Herat-Kandahar highway, said Hemayat.
"Several sections of the highway, as well as small and large bridges in Adraskan, Zawol and Shindand districts, have been destroyed by mines. Similarly, several parts of the Herat-Torghundi highway have been blown up, including a large bridge," Hemayat added.
"Most parts of the roads in Pashtun Zarghun, Ghorian, Zindajan, and Obe districts of Herat Province have been destroyed [at one time or another]," he said.
"None of the asphalt roads in Herat Province have been spared this year."
The sabotage of roads and bridges has led to more than 200 million AFN ($2.6 million) worth of losses, Hemayat said.
The Taliban are targeting more than just roads.
Taliban fighters on October 22 blew up an electrical tower in Ghorian District, cutting off electricity not only to thousands of families but also to hundreds of factories in the Herat Industrial City.
Repairs will take several days, according to Zainab Mohseni, a spokeswoman for Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, the power company, in Herat.
Betrayal of the people
Afghans blame the Taliban for the destruction.
Infrastructure is public property, which should not be attacked, said Sayed Imran Muniri, a resident of Herat. The Taliban do not have the right to use public property as military targets, he said.
"The Taliban have mined the majority of highways in the country, forcing the public to travel with great difficulties," he said. "This is an inhumane act by the Taliban and treason."
"We condemn the destruction of highways, bridges and electricity towers. We call on the Taliban no longer to harm Afghanistan," he added.
Wrecking infrastructure constitutes a betrayal of the public treasury (bait ul mal), betrayal of the people and betrayal of God, said Mohammad Muhsen, a resident of Herat city.
"Those who sabotage roads and bridges must be stopped. The destruction of highways and bridges will only take Afghanistan backward," he added. "I call on the Taliban to come and, instead of destroying Afghanistan, to participate in its reconstruction and development."
All infrastructure including highways, roads, bridges and electricity towers belong to the public, and the Taliban should not target them, said Ahmad Karokhi, chairman of the security committee of the Herat Provincial Council.
"Only the government is involved in building highways and bridges ... Civilians use them every day, and when the Taliban destroy this infrastructure, it is civilians who suffer the most," he said.
"Blowing up roads, bridges and electricity towers represents hostility toward the development and progress of Afghanistan. A very explicit hostility," he added.
"This [sabotage] shows that the Taliban do not want development and progress and are trying to take Afghanistan back to darkness."
Like inhabitants of other countries, Afghans seek access to electricity, asphalt roads and large bridges, but the Taliban have deprived them of such infrastructure, Karokhi said.
The destruction of highways and bridges by the Taliban has no justification and shows their unrestrained nature, said Sayed Ashraf Sadaat, a civil society activist in Herat city.
"The Taliban have been wrecking the infrastructure of Afghanistan for years," he added. "It shows that the Taliban do not want the development of Afghanistan and do not want Afghans to live in peace and prosperity."
"By destroying infrastructure and cutting off electricity, the Taliban have furthered public hatred toward them," he added. "Afghans do not want destruction and terror anymore."
Security forces are being deployed on highways to prevent the destruction of highways and bridges in the province, say officials.
Afghan forces are patrolling the Herat-Islam Qala, Herat-Torghundi, and Herat-Kandahar highways day and night and will not allow these roads to be attacked, Maj. Gen. Abdul Raof Arghandiwal, commander of the Afghan National Army (ANA)'s 207th Zafar Corps, said on October 19.
"The ANA's mine-clearing teams inspect all highways in Herat Province every morning, defusing several mines planted under bridges or along the highways every day," he said.
"The ANA will not allow the enemies of peace and of Afghanistan to hurt the people of Afghanistan," he said. "Besides defusing mines on main roads, the ANA has rebuilt bridges and segments of destroyed road."
The Taliban target infrastructure to weaken the economy of Afghanistan, but the Afghan government will rebuild, Herat Governor Sayed Wahid Qatali said on October 16.
"The enemies of peace and stability have been defeated by the security forces in face-to-face battles, so they have resorted to planting mines on main roads and destroy infrastructure," he said. "The people and the government of Afghanistan will never give up and will continue building their country."
The government has repaired more than 80% of the Herat Province bridges and highways that the Taliban have blown up, Qatali said at a news conference in the National Directorate of Security office in Herat city.
"All of the bridges that had been destroyed along the Herat-Islam Qala highway have been rebuilt, and transportation has returned to normal. Only one bridge along the Herat-Torghundi highway remains destroyed, and reconstruction will end within a week," he said.