The Taliban have agreed to let Iranian experts inspect the Kajaki dam amid disputes over Iran’s water rights from the Hirmand river that at an occasion sparked a border skirmish.
Hassan Kazemi Qomi, the Iranian president’s special envoy for Afghanistan, announced that the Afghan authorities have greenlighted the inspection of the Kajaki dam and said, “Iran and Kabul have hammered out agreements that enable Iranian experts to visit the area.”
Mohammad Sargazi, the Iranian parliamentarian from Zabul, announced that a parliamentary delegation will soon visit Afghanistan to follow up on water rights from Hirmand.
The Taliban officials maintain that the drought has depleted the water level in Hirmand and hampers Iran’s water rights. Before this, Iran had persistently asked to inspect the Kajaki dam, but the Afghan side had rebuffed the inspection of Iranian experts for various excuses.
Iranian experts argue that Afghanistan has reneged on its commitments to Iran on the water rights issue in recent years and has repeatedly exploited the water issue as a bargaining chip against Iran, especially on the energy issue.
The last water sharing pact between Iran and Afghanistan was inked in 1973. Under this pact, Afghanistan is bound not to impede the waterway after the Kajaki Dam, but in the past decade, this country has erected several small and large dams along the Hirmand River.
Curbing Iran’s access to Hirmand water as summer is looming, and it is likely that the lack of agreement in this matter will inflame tensions in the ties between Tehran and Kabul. Iran has stated that it seeks to clinch a deal with the Taliban without stirring up a new challenge and with adroit diplomacy, but if this goal is not attained, it will act firmly in this regard.
Some observers reckon that despite the endeavors and dialogues of the authorities of Iran and Afghanistan to settle the water rights issue, there is a chance of meddling by a third party, including the United States, to turn this issue into a bone of contention between Iran and Afghanistan.