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If Taliban Don't Pay Electric Bill, It'll Be Lights Out

Foreign suppliers could cut off power, leading to blackouts in Kabul
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2021 8:05 PM CDT
It Taliban Don't Pay Electric Bill, It'll Be Lights Out
Afghans shop at a local market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

(Newser) – On top of everything else, the people of Afghanistan could soon lose power because the ruling Taliban aren't paying foreign electrical suppliers. "This would be a really dangerous situation," said Daud Noorzai, who quit as head of Afghanistan's power monopoly after the Taliban takeover, the Wall Street Journal reports. The effects would be felt throughout the country, but Kabul would be affected most, he warned. "There will be blackout and it would bring Afghanistan back to the Dark Ages when it comes to power and to telecommunications," Noorzai said.

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Almost all of Kabul's power comes from Central Asia; the nation has no power grid of its own. Overall, half of Afghanistan buys half its electricity from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, and a bit more from Iran. Power flows freely to Kabul residents now, partly because the Taliban aren't attacking transmission lines anymore and partly because military, government, and industry operations are mostly shut down. That leaves more for homes. Infrastructure assaults had led to rolling blackouts in Kabul, per Al Jazeera. The current drought has also cut Afghanistan's power production. A street merchant who hopes for international help said, "Our problems are growing every day."

Not only are the Taliban not paying the bills, they're not collecting from consumers. Many of them would have trouble settling up, with the banking system largely frozen and government agencies not paying employees. Collections dropped 74% last month, after the August takeover. Tajikistan, for example, could decide to stop supplying Afghanistan; relations between the two governments are tense. "Our neighboring states now have the right to cut our power, under the contract," said the executive who was acting CEO of the power monopoly until Sunday. "We are convincing them not to do that and that they will get paid." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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