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Taliban Battle Leads to Kabul Blackout

FILE - Traffic at night in Kabul, Afghanistan.
FILE - Traffic at night in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Millions of residents in the bitterly cold Afghan capital Kabul have been living mostly without power for the last two weeks as critical grid line from neighboring Uzbekistan has been cut off. The Afghan government blames Taliban attacks for the disruption in the power supply.

Taliban insurgents blew up two power pylons in the Dand-e-Shahabuddin area in the strategic northeastern province of Baghlan after security forces launched a massive operation against the Taliban, Afghan officials say.

The Taliban denied responsibility for destroying power lines and blame Afghan government forces.

The state-owned utility company Da Afghanistan Breshna Shirkat (DABS) has not been able to repair the pylons as the military offensive is still going on, DABS officials say.

“We cannot give this assurance [time frame for towers' repair]. Security forces should give this assurance as to when they may clear the area,” a spokesperson for DABS told VOA. “Once allowed, we could repair the pylons within eight hours.”

About 60 percent of the electrical supply to the city has been cut. The power shortage has not only plunged large swathes of Kabul into darkness, but it has also curtailed the operations of most government departments.

Kabul’s passport department, which receives thousands of applications every day, has seen the number of passports issued decrease by 500 daily.

“Customers have to wait for hours,” Sayed Omar Sabour, the head of the passport department told VOA.

“I have been waiting for two weeks to get a passport,” a customer told VOA. “What kind of a country is this? This is the capital of the country which is supposed to have power around the clock.”

Electricity is the most affordable source of heat and power for cooking for Kabul's estimated five million residents.