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Taliban Seize India-Assisted Salma Dam Hydro-Power Project in Herat, Afghanistan

taliban-seize-india-assisted-salma-dam-hydro-power-project-in-herat,-afghanistan

The Salma dam – renamed the Afghan-India Friendship Dam in 2015 – is one of the biggest infrastructure projects built on Heray Rud river in the Chishti Sharif District of Herat Province in western Afghanistan.

The Taliban* militants entered the Salma Dam after they conquered Herat, the third largest Afghan city, as the troops guarding the project surrendered soon after Friday prayers. The development took place hours after former Herat governor and one of the strongest commanders of the country, Ismail Khan, surrendered to the Taliban.

“Mohammad Ismail Khan, the famous commander of Herat along with thousands of soldiers and supporters joined the Islamic Emirate. All were assured of security and a dignified life,” a Taliban spokesman said.

With Ismail Khan at his house

Ismail Khan says the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate treated him well.

And is satisfied with everything pic.twitter.com/u7fLE2VGP0

— Shamsullah Elham (@ShamsullahElha1) August 13, 2021

​The Indian government had expressed a hope that the Taliban would not harm construction of the 107-metre high and 500-metre long dam. The dam, built at a cost of around $290 million, was handed over to Afghanistan in 2016.

“These are projects done with Indian assistance and support, but they belong to the government of Afghanistan. Once they are handed over, we don’t claim that they are ours. Of course, these are very useful and important projects for the development of Afghanistan, and we certainly hope that they won’t get damaged and will continue to provide benefits,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesman of the Indian foreign ministry said on Thursday.

© AFP 2021 / AREF KARIMI

In this photograph taken on June 2, 2016, the Salma Hydroelectric Dam is seen at Chishti Sharif in Afghanistan’s Herat province.

The Indian mission in Kabul confirmed on Thursday that it had effected the emergency air rescue of three engineers from the dam. The Indian foreign ministry has urged Indian nationals to vacate the war-torn nation immediately to avoid having their life put “in mortal danger”.

The dam has been under a constant security threat and the Taliban carried out several attacks on it in the past. Last month, at least 16 Afghan soldiers were killed in a serious attack by the Islamist group. However, the Afghan government claimed that the structure of the dam remained intact back then.

India has closed all four of its consulates in the country – the last one being in Mazar-i-Sharif this week. At the same time, the Indian foreign ministry maintained that it is not considering closing down the Kabul embassy.

India’s development partnership assistance in Afghanistan is worth more than $2 billion and the two countries had also signed an agreement for the construction of the Lalander (Shahtoot) dam in February this year.   

Until Friday morning, the Taliban claimed control of 18 out of a total 34 provinces in Afghanistan. The insurgents have launched a massive offensive against the Kabul administration in the past week and its rapid advances across the country leave the capital city isolated from the rest of the country.

* The Taliban is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

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