HERAT -- The Taliban's recent pledge to support and protect infrastructure projects in Afghanistan was greeted with widespread ridicule, as the group's ongoing campaign of destruction and mayhem is well known to all Afghans.
Earlier this month, a Taliban delegation discussed the Afghan situation with officials of the Turkmen Foreign Ministry in Ashgabat.
A statement attributed to the Taliban and posted on the ministry's website said the group had "expressed full support for the implementation of... infrastructure projects aimed at ensuring the well-being and prosperity of the Afghan people".
A series of tweets by the Taliban's spokesman late on February 6 acknowledged the talks in the Turkmen capital and said the topics had included border security.
Days later on Sunday (February 14), the Taliban abducted 11 Afghans building Pashdan Dam in Karukh district of Herat province, representing just the latest example of the group's long history of undermining Afghan infrastructure projects.
"These workers were working in a canal 2km away from the centre of the dam yesterday when the Taliban came and took them," Muhammad Arif Achekzai, in charge of the Pashdan project, said on Monday. "We don't yet know the fate of our colleagues or where the Taliban have taken them."
The Taliban have warned him many times to stop working on the dam, he said.
By abducting engineers and workers who were building Pashdan Dam, the Taliban proved that they are the servants of outsiders and are committed to destroying Afghanistan, Herat governor Sayed Wahid Qatali said at a news conference on Monday.
"I have been viewing photos of Taliban activities taken by reconnaissance planes since becoming Herat governor 11 months ago," he said. "They always destroy bridges and roads or shoot at civilians. During this period, I have not seen the Taliban praying even once."
"The sole purpose of the Taliban is to destroy Afghanistan, and they have proven it in the last 20 years. They are responsible for all the destruction," Qatali said. "The Taliban and their external backers do not want to see a prosperous Afghanistan."
In another example of the Taliban's destructive activities, the group planted a mine on the Herat-Islam Qala highway in Herat. Four Railway Authority guards were killed and two others wounded in the explosion on February 9.
"The Taliban's goal is to disrupt the construction of the railway in the province, but no matter how much terror they cause, they cannot stop Afghanistan's progress or prevent the construction of its infrastructure," Qatali said.
Hypocrisy and lies
The Taliban's blatant lies and hypocrisy are shameful, said Mohammad Ehsan Watanyar, a civil society activist in Herat city.
"The Taliban take pride in destroying dams and other infrastructure in Afghanistan, yet the group's leaders are shamelessly talking to other countries about supporting infrastructure and public projects," Watanyar said.
"The world should not trust the Taliban because their actions are clear," said Nabiullah Ghulami, a civil society activist in Herat.
"The Taliban cannot show even one infrastructure project that they have built in 20 years but have much to show in terms of the thousands of infrastructure and public projects they have bombed, including roads, bridges, schools and mosques."
With direct Iranian support, the Taliban have been trying to disrupt work on hydro-electric and irrigation dams in Afghanistan's western provinces so that water does not cease flowing into Iran, members of the Herat provincial council say.
Whenever Afghanistan wants to build irrigation or hydro-electric dams in the western regions, it faces pushback from Iran, said Ghulam Habib Hashimi, chair of the council's security committee.
The Taliban, with outside support, do not want these projects to be completed, Hashimi said.
"Although Iran receives more water per annum than called for by the agreement between Afghanistan and Iran, it still threatens dams in the western regions," he said. "Iran has disrupted construction of a number of dams for many years."
"While the Afghan people and government, with the support of the international community, have been working for years to build this infrastructure, the Taliban blow up all these efforts in minutes," he said.
They have escalated their threats from areas near Pashdan Dam, trying to delay its construction by causing terror and insecurity, said Wakil Ahmad Karokhi, another member of the Herat provincial council.
"Receiving orders from regional and neighbouring intelligence agencies, the Taliban are trying to disrupt construction of dams including Pashdan Dam," he said.
Iranian support for Taliban sabotage
In addition to the Taliban's visit to Turkmenistan, a Taliban delegation headed by Abdul Ghani Baradar, chief of the group's political office in Qatar, visited Tehran on January 26 on official invitation from the Iranian regime.
Two days later, another Taliban delegation headed by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, deputy chief of the Taliban's political office, visited Moscow on official invitation.
The Taliban's visits to countries with vested interests in manipulating Afghanistan's future have angered Afghans, who say they undermine peace talks with the Afghan government.
Instructed by the enemies of the people of Afghanistan, the Taliban want to destroy irrigation and hydro-electric dams and in return receive money and weapons from countries supporting them, said Mohammad Asif Akrami, a resident of Zaranj, the provincial capital of Nimroz.
Meanwhile, neighbouring countries "receive water for free from Afghanistan", he said.
"Kamal Khan Dam in Nimroz province, which stops excess water from flowing into Iran, is near completion," he said. "The Iranian government has always tried to harm this critical dam to keep benefiting from free water from our country."
The Taliban have done nothing positive for Afghanistan, said Herat resident Ghulam Ghaws Mohammadi.
"The Taliban's job is destruction. If the government builds a school, the Taliban destroy it," he said. "Signs of explosions and destruction of bridges can [also] be seen everywhere."
"These projects belong to Afghanistan, and if the Taliban are Afghans, then they should stop the destruction," he said.