Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan provide half of Afghanistan’s electricity, with Iran contributing further supplies to the country’s west. This year’s drought has had an impact on domestic production, primarily at hydropower plants. Kabul is nearly entirely reliant on imported power from Central Asia as Afghanistan lacks a national power grid.
After the Taliban’s takeover on Aug. 15, the country’s new Taliban rulers have not paid Central Asian electricity suppliers or resumed collecting money from users, so Afghanistan’s capital could be thrown into darkness as winter approaches, Wall Street Journal reported.
At that time, DABS had some $40 million in cash in its accounts. However, the Taliban starved of funds because of international sanctions; they also refused to approve the use of the money to pay electricity suppliers’ invoices. DABS’ liabilities have risen to more than $90 million and are continuing to rise. Collection from customers, dropped by 74% last month, with only $8.9 million in revenue since Aug. 15, according to DABS officials.
Daud Noorzai, who resigned as chief executive of the country’s state power monopoly, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, warned it could result in a humanitarian disaster
“The consequences would be countrywide, but especially in Kabul. There will be blackout and it would bring Afghanistan back to the Dark Ages when it comes to power and to telecommunications,” said Mr. Noorzai, who remains in close contact with DABS’s remaining management. “This would be a really dangerous situation.”
The Afghan capital currently seems to have plenty of power. This is partly due to the Taliban’s suspension of attacks on Central Asian transmission lines. Another reason is that, with industry at a standstill and military and government facilities mainly idle, residential consumers receive a considerably more significant share of the electricity supply.
However, suppose Central Asian suppliers—particularly Tajikistan, whose relationship with the Taliban is increasingly deteriorating—decide to shut off DABS for nonpayment. In that case, the electricity contract is likely to come to an end abruptly.
Tajikistan has previously provided shelter to anti-Taliban leaders such as former Vice President Amrullah Saleh and recently sent extra troops to its border with Afghanistan, prompting Russia to urge a cease-fire between the two countries.
“Our neighboring states now have the right to cut our power, under the contract,” said Safiullah Ahmadzai, the DABS former chief operating officer. “We are convincing them not to do that and that they will get paid.”
Ahmadzai also urged international donors to either clear the company’s debts with Central Asian countries or cover the unpaid bills of Afghan customers.
“This is not a political issue, this would be a direct payment to the poor people of Afghanistan, not the government,” he said. “And electricity is needed to keep the wheels of the economy turning.”
At the United Nations last month, the international community donated over $1 billion in emergency help to Afghanistan. However, a Western diplomat stated that donors would not want their money to go to Central Asian power generators. He claimed that it was up to the Central Asian countries to use the money owed to them as leverage against the new Taliban regime.