The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the College of William & Mary have collaborated through NGA’s open-source Tearline project to research changes in Afghanistan’s water management policy since the Taliban assumed control in 2021.
The effects of climate change in Afghanistan are well-documented, with 19 of 20 Afghans suffering from lack of food and resources. Although Afghanistan is rich in water, with a nine-month dry season, droughts and flooding are inextricably linked in the region due to the subpar hydrological infrastructure and damage to dams from war and political instability in the region over decades. Under the previous Afghan government, establishing a robust series of 44 hydroelectric dams was a priority. The Taliban takeover halted most international humanitarian efforts in the region, but various ongoing dam projects were allowed to continue unobstructed. The Tearline research found that the Taliban largely retained the personnel and plans underway to improve Afghanistan’s hydrological infrastructure.
The only clear break in Taliban dam management from the previous government’s management is its approach toward Iran. Historically, the Taliban has controlled the release of water from certain dams into Iran as a punitive measure, but under the new Taliban government, the flow of water has drastically increased since 2021, serving as a diplomatic lever and warming relations with Iran.
Outside of the water flow into Iran, it appears to date as if the Taliban is managing the dams in a similar manner as the previous government, underscoring the Taliban’s understanding of the importance of the climate change crisis to the region.
To watch Tearline’s recent video on what GEOINT can tell us about Afghanistan’s water management, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INVI80_yEqs
To see the full Tearline reporting, visit https://www.tearline.mil/public_page/afghanistan-water/
NGA’s Tearline Project is an ongoing series of collaborations with academia and non-profit groups to create public-facing, open source intelligence on various strategic, economic and humanitarian intelligence topics that are under-reported.
For more information about Tearline, including how to propose a research topic, please visit https://www.tearline.mil/.