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With US troops out Taliban lets water from dam flow into parched Iran and gets oil in return

After taking over the reins of power in Afghanistan, the Taliban has opened the gate of the Kamal Khan dam on the Helmand river to let water flow freely to Iran (Pic. Courtesy/Twitter@Reporterlyaf)

After taking over the reins of power in Afghanistan, the Taliban has opened the gate of the Kamal Khan dam on the Helmand river to let water flow freely to Iran. The  gates had been “closed” for the last two years.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, the gates of the dam were opened after Iran resumed fuel exports to Afghanistan a few days ago following a request from the new Taliban government, which feels empowered by the US withdrawal to buy the sanctioned nation's oil more openly.

The Taliban is now providing critical dollars to the sanctions-crushed Iranian economy from its lucrative narcotics operations and Iran is getting “precious” flow of water of the Helmand river for its parched Sistan and Baluchistan provinces, providing water to over one million Iranians.

Kamal Khan Dam was inaugurated in March by then Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, who declared that Afghanistan would no longer give away water to Iran for free, and from now on would sell water for oil to its neighbouring country. 

Tehran accused Ghani of violating the Helmand River Treaty of 1973 which laid down a formula for sharing the water between the two countries.

Iran said that Afghanistan’s decision to cut Iran off from a major water source was not done in response to water scarcity, but due to Washington’s persistence on using any means necessary to put pressure on Tehran.

Iran, a downstream riparian country, has long objected to the construction of the Kamal Khan Dam, arguing it would severely restrict water flow from the Helmand River into the Iranian border provinces of Sistan and Baluchistan and  destabilize the region.

But the previous Afghan government rejected Iranian assessments and described the project as mutually beneficial. They maintain the dam will help their country manage the water flow and ensure Iran receives its rightful share.

Kabul and Tehran signed an agreement in 1973 that requires Afghanistan to annually release 850 million cubic meters of water to Iran from the nearly 1,300-kilometer-long transboundary Helmand River basin.

However, the treaty was neither ratified nor implemented due to decades of political turmoil and war in Afghanistan.

In the last meetings between the Taliban delegations led by Mullah Baradar and Iranian leaders, it is believed both sides made several commitments to each other on a variety of issues, including giving Iran free access to the river water.

Experts believe, that the Taliban fighters first took over the city of Zurang from the Afghan government to ensure the flow of water to Tehran. It was no coincidence that the Taliban released a large amount of water from that dam into Iran.

Also Read: How beheading of a wanted terrorist brought Taliban and Iran closer