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Taliban attacks India built Salma dam again, fires mortar shells–Afghan government

Signifying the India-Afghanistan friendship, the Salma Dam has been attacked by the Taliban (Pic: Courtesy spmrf.org)

The Taliban has fired mortar shells on the India-Afghanistan Friendship dam Salma dam in the Chesht district of Herat province, says the National Water Authority of Afghanistan. The Authority has warned of catastrophic fallouts if the Taliban attacks persist on Afghanistan’s key national infrastructure.

“Salma Dam will be destroyed if the militants continue to fire rockets and some of the rockets have landed near the dam,” reports the BBC Urdu quoting officials.

According to the Afghan National Water Authority,  a large number of Afghan citizens would suffer financial and human losses if the Salma Dam was damaged. The organization points out that the lives and livelihoods of Afghans in eight districts totally depend on the Salma dam.

The authority has asked the Taliban not to damage the dam, as it is the national asset and thousands of Afghan’s living in the region depend on it.

M. Ashraf Haidari Ambassador of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka  wrote in a post, “Afghan Taliban as an instrument of external aggression are targeting Afghanistan’s key infrastructure, deepening what is already one of the most complex humanitarian crises where the imposed conflict, climate, and COVID-19 have inflicted unspeakable pain and suffering on Afghan”

But the Taliban spokesperson in Afghanistan Zabiullah Mujahid has denied any involvement and told the BBC, “We did not shoot at Salma Dam at all’. But he claimed that the Taliban has captured Kamal Khan Dam, second largest in the west of the country, after the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam Salma Dam, in the neighbouring Herat province. It became functional in March this year and it is expected that  the dam's proximity to Iran’s Chabahar port would uplift and transform the economy of Nimroz province and the whole of Afghanistan.

Salma Dam, also known as the Afghan-India Friendship dam, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in June 2016. The Afghan-India Friendship Dam in Herat province, which borders Iran, is the biggest dam in western Afghanistan, built to bring power and irrigation to vast tracts of the war-torn country. Other than Salma Dam being a symbol of India-Afghan unity, it is critical public infrastructure. The gap between what the Taliban portray to the world and what they do on the ground is for everyone to see. Yet, many are ready to accept them as a "changed" insurgents.

Also Read: Taliban attacks check post near Salma dam–a symbol of India-Afghanistan friendship

This is the first direct attack by the Taliban on the Salma dam. Ten days ago, the Taliban had attacked a security check post of the Salma dam killing 16 Security Personnel. This  check post is around 15 kilometres from the dam site. The Taliban  targeted the heavily guarded Salma Dam, located 165km from the capital  Kabul, in several previous attacks. It is guarded by many security posts.

Few days later, Afghan  media reported that Afghan security forces have arrested a Pakistani national on charges of destroying India built Salma dam on July 11.Officials of Afghan intelligence agency, NDS believe that Taliban’s  Quetta Shura & Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and militants are trying to destroy Indian built projects in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been accusing India and its  role in nation building in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s foreign minister foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been critical about India’s “larger than ought" presence in Afghanistan.