Security

Taliban attacks on Herat's Salma dam spark outrage

By Omar

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In this photograph taken June 2, 2016, Afghan National Army soldiers and labourers walk over Salma dam east of Herat city. [Aref Karimi/AFP]

HERAT -- Repeated Taliban attacks targeting Salma dam in Herat province -- one of Afghanistan's largest national infrastructure projects -- have sparked local outrage.

Security forces repelled the Taliban on July 13 and 15 and prevented them from damaging the dam, according to the National Water Affairs Regulation Authority (NWARA).

"Taliban mortars hit areas around Salma dam, but fortunately they did not damage the dam," NWARA spokesman Nizamuddin Khpulwak said July 14.

"Our request to the Taliban is not to destroy public properties, public facilities or national infrastructure," he said.

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A photograph taken December 2, 2015, shows a general view of the Salma hydroelectric dam in the eastern part of Herat province. [Aref Karimi/AFP]

"Large hydroelectric dams are critical for the country's economic growth, the irrigation of agricultural lands, creation of jobs for Afghans and lighting of residents' houses, but the Taliban are trying to damage these dams," Khpulwak said.

Previously, 16 guards were killed in a July 5 attack on a guard post at the dam.

The security forces thwarted the Taliban's plot to destroy Salma dam, Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for the Herat governor, told Salaam Times.

"The Taliban have escalated their activities around Salma dam, but additional forces have been sent there," he said. "The Taliban are unable to damage Salma dam."

The Taliban repeatedly have targeted Herat province's Salma and Pashdan dams in recent years, he said. "But each time, their attacks ... have failed."

Afghan forces will repel any attempt to sabotage these national projects, he said.

'A shameful act'

"Salma dam was built after decades of efforts and hard work by Afghans," Herat city resident Shamsuddin Rahmani said.

"All residents of Herat are benefiting from its water and electricity, but the Taliban shamelessly want to destroy the dam," he said.

The Taliban have proven their hostility towards the people and infrastructure of Afghanistan time after time, Rahmani said, noting that such destruction on the part of the insurgent group is to be expected.

According to Herat residents and officials, the Taliban are the vassals of other countries, particularly of Iran, and are destroying Afghanistan's infrastructure to serve their goals.

By trying to destroy Salma dam, the Taliban want to make Afghans dependent on outsiders permanently, said Herat provincial council security committee chairman Ghulam Habib Hashimi.

"Who benefits from the destruction of Salma dam?" he asked. "What will the Taliban gain by destroying Salma dam?

"Don't they have the brains to think for a moment before committing such a shameful act?"

The Taliban's threats toward Salma dam have increased significantly lately, he said, noting that the group seems intent on destroying the dam.

"The Taliban attack on Salma dam and the destruction of infrastructure by the group are ... treason," said Herat resident Abdul Latif Ahmadi.

"Everyone knows that foreign countries are behind the Taliban's attacks and that the Taliban are committing these crimes at the behest of outsiders," he added.

The Taliban cannot do anything on their own, Ahmadi said. By accepting money and weapons from neighbouring countries, they have become the puppets of these countries, spilling blood every day and destroying public facilities.

Iranian involvement

Several Iranian combatants joined the Taliban in their attacks on Salma dam, a senior Herat security official told Salaam Times on condition of anonymity, describing them as "the masterminds".

"Weapons and ammunition used against Salma dam came to Herat from Iran," the security official said.

Members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been seen among the Taliban in the eastern districts, "especially in Chesht district, where Salma dam is situated", he noted.

Iranian fighters were present alongside the Taliban as they attacked the dam, a security official at Salma dam previously reported.

War in the western region is about water, and the Iranian government is behind it, said Mohammad Naser Akbari, an international relations analyst in Herat city.

It is very clear that Iran is trying to destroy dams in the western region, he said, adding that the Taliban are the best and cheapest soldiers of the Iranian government for achieving this goal.

The construction of Salma and Kamal Khan dams has led to severe water shortages in eastern Iran, he said, noting that "most of the agricultural land in the provinces bordering Afghanistan has dried up".

"The Iranian government is trying with all its resources to destroy these dams."

"The Iranian government receives water under the Helmand River Water Treaty, but it wants free water," Akbari said. "According to international principles, Iran must pay the Afghan people in exchange for extra water."

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