An article published on January 23 in VOA News reports that Afghan governors in southern and western provinces charged Iran with using their relationship with the Afghan Taliban to target power and water projects on Tehran's behalf.
The governor of southern Helmand province, Hayatullah Hayat, told VOA's Afghan service that the Islamic Republic wants the Taliban to disable some of the nation's dams, so Tehran can have a larger share of water from the Helmand River. The governor cited classified Afghan intelligence reports that were forwarded to the Afghan palace and the National Security Council.
Hayat said, “Iran is seeking to undermine the development projects over the Helmand River so that it can continue receiving more water.”
He accused elements in Iran's Revolutionary Guard forces of providing weapons to the Taliban to be used to attack government installations and infrastructure. He said several unexploded mortar missiles used by the Taliban that were fired at the provincial capital bore an Iranian manufacturer's mark.
Iran's intelligence representatives recently met with local Taliban leaders in Helmand's volatile Garmser district, the governor added.
On Monday, when contacted by VOA, Iran’s Embassy in Kabul declined to comment.
Tehran has denied the accusations of association with the Taliban, saying instead, that it has close relations with the government of Afghanistan.
In parts of Asia, water scarcity is a major issue, and Iranian authorities have been pushing for a larger share of water supplies from Afghanistan which has been building dams for irrigation and power needs. The two countries signed a water-sharing treaty in 1973, that says Iran will not make claims to water from the Helmand River other than the amounts agreed to in the treaty, even if additional water becomes available in the future.
According to VOA, Iran has voiced concerns over water management projects in progress in western and southern Afghanistan, including Herat province's newly Indian-funded hydroelectric and irrigation project known as Salma Dam, saying that this may reduce the flow of water into Iran.
The Afghan government said that the projects will not affect the amount of water flowing into Iran. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that Iran continues to receive its share of water from Helmand River, and that the country cannot claim more than what it agreed upon.
Some Afghan experts say that if Iran wants more water, it should make a deal with Afghanistan. “We know Iran wants more water than allocated to it in the water-sharing treaty,” Wadir Safi, a professor of law and political science at Kabul University told VOA. “If Iran wants more water beyond the amount agreed in the treaty, it should consider buying additional water from Afghanistan.”
The allegations of Taliban involvement comes as Kabul is increasingly concerned about Iran's perceived meddling in Afghan provinces that border Iran. An investigation into Iran's reported association with the Taliban was ordered by the Afghan Senate last month.
Afghan regional officials say the Taliban has increased its terror activities in various provinces. “The abundance of new weapons and ammunitions in Taliban's possession has created many questions and doubts,” Asif Nang, the governor of western Farah province told VOA on Monday. Nang added that the Taliban can receive weapons “within an hour” from Iran, given the proximity of his province to the border.
Nang accused Iran of harboring Taliban families in its territory, last month. “Families of a number of high-ranking Taliban leaders reside in Iran,” Nang told Radio Liberty last month. “They live in cities such as Yazd, Kerman and Mashhad, and come back to Afghanistan for subversive activities.”
Killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan last year, the Taliban's former leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, was reportedly returning from Tehran after holding meetings in Iran.