The recent wave of power shortages is being felt across Afghanistan, and the Taliban blame the international community for the country's political and financial isolation since the group took over last year.

Everyday for three hours, Noorbakhsh, in Balkh province, in northern Afghanistan, turns on his personal electricity generator to water his land, where he cultivates crops like cotton and sesame.

The yield of his fields depends entirely on how much water and electricity he can acquire in a country facing droughts, rickety power infrastructure, and a flailing Taliban government.

The northern province is connected to the national power grid, which imports electricity from Central Asian countries. 

When the Taliban fought US troops in the 2000s, the fighters would regularly attack electricity pylons and power lines, leaving the region in the dark for days. 

As the Taliban took over Kabul last year, there was hope that the locals would at least get uninterrupted supply of electricity as a sense of some stability sets in. 

However, the 51-year-old farmer is now disappointed, as the power outages in his province have prolonged  in recent months, forcing him to spend more money on fuel to run his generator. 

“Before the Taliban, the electricity outages occurred every other day. But now the situation is much worse, and sometimes we are without power for days. I am spending a lot of money on the generator and water pump,” Noorbakhsh told TRT World, sharing fear that he won't be able to water his as the summer peaks.

“As Afghans, we are used to spending days and nights without electricity. But my fields are thirsty; they depend on electricity for their thirst to be quenched." 

"This summer was also been very hot and I need to keep a close watch on the crops, otherwise all my hard work will be wasted if the crops dry out,” he said.

More than 70 percent of the electricity consumed in Afghanistan is comes from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, and less than 20 percent is produced domestically.

The recent wave of power outages is being felt across Afghanistan, as the leadership of the Taliban struggles to provide a steady electricity supply.

In Daikundi province in central Afghanistan, 30-year-old Asghar, who owns a small shop, said he could not afford a private generator like his peers.

Although, unlike Noorbakhsh in Balkh, his district had poor power connectivity even during the previous government, the situation is getting worse. 

“I have a small solar-powered battery that helps run three bulbs and is enough to charge our cell phones. I cannot afford a bigger generator, nor the fuel to operate it,” he told TRT World.

“Without power, I am unable to keep the shop open for longer hours. My daily sales have decreased a lot. Previously, I used to earn up to 6000 Afghanis ($67) a day, but now my earning has fallen to 700 Afghanis ($7),” he said.

A Taliban spokesperson attributed the problems to  political and financial isolation the group is facing by the international community. 

“The earlier Afghan governments had access to international aid and assistance. They were able to manage the affairs because they had support of so many foreign governments. The Taliban are on their own,” said a Taliban official working with Afghanistan’s electricity board, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) who only wished to identity as Matti.

“And of course, because of that, there are many challenges,” he added.

The collapse of the previous government, and the subsequent Taliban takeover, triggered an economic and banking crisis in Afghanistan that was aggravated by the international sanctions and a freeze on Afghanistan's foreign reserves in the US, which come to around $9 billion. 

As a result, Afghanistan is facing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis that the Taliban are finding hard to deal with.

Many Taliban members have directed their energy to contribute to the governance of the country they captured last year - a skill that they, admittedly, don’t fully grasp.
Many Taliban members have directed their energy to contribute to the governance of the country they captured last year - a skill that they, admittedly, don’t fully grasp. (Reuters)

Matti, the 34-year-old member of the Taliban, has been with the armed group for over 14 years, joining them very young to fight the US and NATO-backed forces.

However, now like other fighters, he directs his energy and time to contribute to the governance  - a task, which the Taliban admit they are only now getting used to. 

“We try to imitate the policies of the previous government. We have also retained many of the same bureaucrats," he said. 

However, the Taliban have installed their own men as heads of various government departments. 

Mohsin Amin, an Afghan expert on energy, confirmed that since most of the technical staff remained, “service delivery was based on previous systems".

However, owing to the economic crises, the purchasing power of people dwindled and impacted overall tax collection, making it difficult for the Taliban to run the system effectively. 

“In the last year, DABS collected over $280 million and paid over $151 million for electricity imports and to local Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

"I [also] heard from colleagues in DABS that corruption was reduced and commercial losses contained for the first time. But, the economic and humanitarian crisis has overshadowed other aspects of service delivery, nonetheless,” he said. 

But millions of Afghans, especially in the rural areas, who had hoped for light at the end of the long, violent war, were met with literal darkness.

“We want the government to pay attention to us. The war is over; reopen our schools, build us clinics and give us access to electricity and water,” Asghar urged, echoing a wish expressed by many Afghans.

Source: TRT World