News / Asia

    Lights Set to Go Out in Kandahar After US Aid Winds Down

    FILE - A female worker scatters raisins to select at Hajii Sher Mohamad Raisin Factory, near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
    FILE - A female worker scatters raisins to select at Hajii Sher Mohamad Raisin Factory, near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
    Reuters

    When the United States stops funding power generation in Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar next year, the lights are set to go out and factories will fall idle, playing into the hands of Taliban insurgents active in the area.

    Bringing a stable source of electricity to Kandahar, the cradle of the hardline Islamist movement and once a base for its leader Mullah Omar, was a top U.S. "counter-insurgency priority'' as Washington pursued its policy of winning "hearts and minds."

    But regular power in the city is still years away, and when the United States finally ends subsidies - currently running at just over $1 million a month - in September 2015, Kandahar could lose around half its severely limited electricity supplies, Afghan power officials and U.S. inspectors say.

    The Taliban, meanwhile, control about half the 12 MW of power supplied to Kandahar province from the Kajaki plant in neighboring Helmand province, ensuring a stable supply of electricity in their strongholds, according to the head of state power firm Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) in Kandahar.

    "There are some 130 different factories operating in Kandahar whose electricity is maintained and paid for by the Americans,'' said Fuzl Haq, a businessman in Kandahar.

    "If the Americans stop paying for the fuel to run these factories, some 6,000 workers will lose their jobs,'' Haq added, reflecting concerns of many locals in Afghanistan's second city.

    "These are all young people and they may join up with the Taliban or resort to crime in order to earn money.''

    Alex Bronstein-Moffly, a spokesman for the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said power shortages in insurgent heartlands would be a major setback 13 years after the Taliban was toppled in a U.S.-led war.

    "If electrical service to Kandahar is compromised it could end up endangering counter-insurgency and economic gains made over the last few years,'' he said.

    Long delays

    U.S. power subsidies were intended to fill in until the power grid reached Kandahar and a new turbine was installed at Kajaki dam, but both projects remain years away from completion, not least because of strong armed resistance from the Taliban in the region.

    "It appears that the U.S. still has no realistic plan for helping the Afghan government develop a sustainable source of electricity,'' wrote John Sopko, a U.S. special inspector general, in a report published on Tuesday.

    Winning over locals in the hot, dusty cluster of low-slung houses and markets has been a priority for the United States, which, like other foreign powers, is due to withdraw most of its troops from the war-torn country by the end of the year.

     The Afghan government says it cannot afford to maintain Kandahar's power generators or pay for the fuel. Diesel supplies in the city are already being rationed and power outages will be inevitable, says the state-owned power company.

    "We have no other way [of operating],'' said DABS chief commercial officer Mirwais Alami in Kabul. "If businesses cannot compete with Kabul in Kandahar, they will collapse.''

    How to pay for Kandahar's power without U.S. or Afghan government funds is a major problem, with powerful tribal and political leaders already refusing to pay their electricity bills, according to DABS officials.

    Revenue collection in the south has also been dented by the Taliban, who control areas along power lines.

    "Taliban collect revenue from electricity in places under their control,'' said engineer Sayed Rasoul, the head of DABS in Kandahar.

    The U.S. aid agency has just awarded a new $27 million, four-year project to improve electricity revenue collection and management in Kandahar. The cash cannot be used to pay for fuel. It says increasing tariffs was one way to keep Kandahar's two 10 MW generators running.

    "USAID has worked with DABS to prepare users to pay for the more expensive power generated with diesel until DABS completes work on a new turbine at Kajaki and on the power transmission line,'' said Donald "Larry'' Sampler, Assistant to the Administrator in the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs (OAPA) in Washington.

    But plans to increase tariffs as much as tenfold or more may be unrealistic in one of the world's poorest countries, where only 30 percent of people have access to electricity. 

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.