HERAT -- Following the Taliban's deadly Monday (March 15) attack on a security post at Pashdan dam in Karukh district, Herat province, Afghan security forces swiftly tracked down and killed five of the perpetrators, local authorities said.
Dozens of Taliban fighters launched a co-ordinated assault on a security post near Pashdan dam on Monday evening, National Water Affairs Regulation Authority (NWARA) spokesman Nizamuddin Khpulwak said Tuesday.
At least three members of the security forces were killed, and one was injured, he said.
"The Taliban also took with them four members of the local security forces, who were responsible for ensuring Pashdan dam security," Khpulwak said.
In a Tuesday video message, Herat governor Sayed Wahid Qatali vowed to hold the Taliban to account for the Monday killings.
"After the Taliban's attack on one of the outposts at Pashdan dam, security forces followed their fighters," he said, adding that within a few hours, they had killed five of the perpetrators.
"The Taliban planned to launch a major attack to damage Pashdan dam and harm the dam's workers and engineers," he said. "They failed, however, and the security forces repelled them."
He accused the Taliban of making constant efforts to "disrupt our public projects, which are financed by the private sector and national programmes", and of sabotaging infrastructure projects.
In an earlier incident, on February 14, the Taliban kidnapped 11 workers, some of whom are engineers, from Pashdan dam.
Their whereabouts are still unknown, and they are believed to be in Taliban captivity, officials at the dam said.
Taliban barter with Iranian regime
A Taliban delegation travelled to Tehran in January for a meeting in which they reportedly bartered access to Afghanistan's water to the Iranian regime in exchange for political and financial support.
Afghan officials have repeatedly accused the Iranian regime of supporting the Taliban to prevent the construction of dams in the western region and to ensure the continuation of water flow into Iran.
After the Tehran meeting, security threats and Taliban attacks on hydroelectricity dams in the western region have increased, said Abdul Qader Kamel, a political analyst in Herat city.
On March 1, Iranian border forces fired at Afghan workers at one of the turbines in Kamal Khan dam in Nimroz province.
The recurrence of such assaults is an indication that the Taliban try to sabotage dams with support from the Iranian government, Kamel said.
"The Iranian government is concerned about the construction work on dams in the western region, and therefore, it tries to prevent it from being completed," he said.
"The Iranian government does not support the Taliban for free, however," he said. "In return for its political support, it wants the Taliban to achieve the Iranian leadership's goals in Afghanistan."
"In return for receiving money and weapons from neighbouring countries, the Taliban implement their destructive agendas in Afghanistan," said Herat provincial council deputy chairman Toryalai Taheri.
He accused them of acting on the direct instruction of countries such as Iran.
"The construction of Pashdan dam will stop the flow of free water to Iran, and therefore Iran uses all its powers to stop the construction work on this dam," he said.
'An attack on every Afghan home'
The Taliban attack on Pashdan dam has angered Herat residents.
The Taliban are puppets of foreign countries, and they do not care about Afghanistan, said Herat provincial council member Abdul Rahim Salehi.
If they did, "they would not destroy it," he said.
Infrastructure projects have brought "hope and freedom to our country", Salehi added. But the Taliban destroy these projects "so that Afghanistan does not become self-sufficient".
The Taliban do not want peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, said Herat resident Najibullah Saidi.
"They kill civilians and police, destroy our projects, and at the order of other countries they destroy infrastructure and national projects," he said.
"The Taliban attack on Pashdan dam confirms they are the enemy of infrastructure and the people of Afghanistan," Saidi added.
"Pashdan dam is a national project, and it belongs to all Afghans," he said. "The Taliban attack on this dam is an attack on every Afghan home."
Dam construction will continue
The Taliban will not stop construction work on Pashdan dam from going forward, officials at the dam said.
Despite the Taliban's threats, construction work is 80% complete and the rest of the work is under way, said Muhammad Arif Achekzai, director of construction at Pashdan dam.
"In less than three months, construction work on the dam will be completed and the water intake process will start," he said.
Construction of the retaining wall and the canal's main and sub-sections is complete, and work on turbine installation is under way, Achekzai added.
Pashdan dam is situated on the Harirud River, some 20km east of Herat city. When completed, it will have a storage capacity of 54 million cubic metres of water that can irrigate more than 13,000 hectares of agricultural land.
Once the dam is operational and water intake commences, the dam is expected to generate more than 2MW of electricity.
In recent months, Achekzai said, the Taliban have made great efforts to cause insecurity and prevent work from progressing at Pashdan dam.
But they have not succeeded, he said.