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Kabul Faces Blackout as Taliban Don’t Pay Electricity Suppliers

KABUL—Afghanistan’s capital could possibly be plunged into darkness because the winter units in as a result of the nation’s new Taliban rulers haven’t paid Central Asian electrical energy suppliers or resumed accumulating cash from customers.

Until addressed, the state of affairs may trigger a humanitarian catastrophe, warned Daud Noorzai, who resigned as chief government of the nation’s state energy monopoly, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, practically two weeks after the Taliban’s takeover on Aug. 15.

“The results can be countrywide, however particularly in Kabul. There can be blackout and it could carry Afghanistan again to the Darkish Ages relating to energy and to telecommunications,” mentioned Mr. Noorzai, who stays in shut contact with DABS’s remaining administration. “This might be a extremely harmful state of affairs.”

Electrical energy imports from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan account for half of Afghanistan’s energy consumption nationwide, with Iran offering extra provides to the nation’s west. Home manufacturing, principally at hydropower stations, has been affected by this 12 months’s drought. Afghanistan lacks a nationwide energy grid, and Kabul relies upon nearly utterly on imported energy from Central Asia.

At present, energy is ample within the Afghan capital, a uncommon—if transient—enchancment for the reason that Taliban takeover. Partly, that’s as a result of the Taliban not assault the transmission strains from Central Asia. One more reason is that, with business at a standstill and navy and authorities amenities largely idle, a a lot larger share of the ability provide finally ends up with residential customers, eliminating the rolling blackouts that was once commonplace.

That, nonetheless, is prone to come to an abrupt finish if the Central Asian suppliers—significantly Tajikistan, whose relationship with the Taliban is quickly deteriorating—resolve to chop off DABS for nonpayment. Tajikistan has given shelter to leaders of the anti-Taliban resistance, akin to former Vice President

Amrullah Saleh,

and lately deployed extra troops to its border with Afghanistan, prompting Russia to name on each nations to de-escalate.

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A hydroelectric dam in southern Tajikistan in 2018. Tajikistan has been a key supply of imported electrical energy for Afghanistan.



Photograph:

Agence France-Presse/Getty Photos

“Our neighboring states now have the proper to chop our energy, beneath the contract,” mentioned Safiullah Ahmadzai, the DABS chief working officer who stayed on after the Taliban takeover and served as appearing CEO till being changed by a Taliban cleric on Sunday. “We’re convincing them not to try this and that they’ll receives a commission.”

The Taliban spokesman’s workplace and a spokesman for the brand new authorities’s power and water ministry didn’t reply to requests for remark.

On the time of the Taliban takeover, DABS had some $40 million in money in its accounts, cash that Mr. Noorzai mentioned some officers of the previous authorities tried to drive him handy over. The Taliban, starved of funds due to worldwide sanctions, haven’t accepted the usage of that cash to pay invoices from energy suppliers. DABS liabilities have since grown to greater than $90 million and are rising, Mr. Ahmadzai mentioned. Assortment from clients, in the meantime, shrunk by 74% final month, with solely $8.9 million in income since Aug. 15, in accordance with DABS officers.

With authorities ministries not paying salaries for months and the banking system paralyzed, many Afghans don’t have the means to pay their energy payments. Final 12 months, clients in Kabul accounted for about half of DABS’s $387 million in whole income, in accordance with firm paperwork.

‘The results [of a blackout] can be countrywide, however particularly in Kabul.’


— Daud Noorzai, former CEO of Afghanistan’s state power monopoly

Massoud, a 28-year-old who goes by just one title and sells recent pomegranate juice from a cart on the streets of Kabul, mentioned he hasn’t paid his DABS invoice for 2 months. The Taliban takeover induced meals costs to rise, leaving him with not sufficient cash to settle the invoice, which runs between $6 and $12 for a household of eight. “Our issues are rising daily,” he mentioned.

“I request the worldwide neighborhood to assist us,” he mentioned. “Our issues are rising daily.”

Farooq Faqiri, a 32-year-old market-stall holder who sells plastic jewellery in Kabul, mentioned that his household of seven used to have the ability to eat meat daily however now lives on potatoes. The variety of patrons of his jewellery is now a fifth of what it was. He mentioned that they must skip even a few of these meager meals to avoid wasting sufficient to pay the electrical energy invoice, which is a month in arrears. “The electrical energy comes from a company so they won’t allow us to off the invoice,” mentioned Mr. Faqiri. “In the event that they reduce us off, we must return in time and use oil for gentle and warmth in our rooms.”

DABS wants an pressing infusion of $90 million to stave off a collapse, mentioned Mr. Ahmadzai. He urged worldwide donors to both settle the corporate’s arrears with the Central Asian nations straight or to cowl the unpaid payments of Afghan customers. “This isn’t a political difficulty, this may be a direct cost to the poor individuals of Afghanistan, not the federal government” he mentioned. “And electrical energy is required to maintain the wheels of the economic system turning.”

The worldwide neighborhood pledged over $1 billion in emergency aid for Afghanistan at a convention organized by the United Nations final month. However a Western diplomat mentioned that donors wouldn’t wish to see that cash—meant for saving lives in Afghanistan by offering meals, shelter and healthcare—go as a substitute to Central Asian energy turbines. He mentioned that it was as much as the Central Asian international locations to make use of the cash owed as leverage over the brand new Taliban regime.

Whereas a lot of the outdated DABS central-management group nonetheless stay in workplace, the Taliban have changed key provincial administrators with clerics, although they retained firm executives as deputies, mentioned Mr. Ahmadzai. On the DABS Fb web page, Mr. Ahmadzai has praised the Taliban’s new Islamic Emirate for bringing peace to the nation. Most of the professionals at DABS, simply as elsewhere in Afghanistan’s company and authorities bureaucracies, have both fled overseas for the reason that Taliban takeover or are actively attempting to take action.

Mr. Noorzai mentioned that advantageous pricing in current power-purchase agreements with Central Asian nations is in danger until the arrears are settled rapidly. “If we don’t pay them on time, then we default on our contracts and—as occurs in every single place in monetary markets—you compensate the chance of the consumer by growing tariffs.”

Afghanistan Beneath Taliban Rule

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com and Saeed Shah at saeed.shah@wsj.com

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