The Energy Ministry of Turkmenistan recently commissioned a new thermal power plant that will contribute up to 3.6 million kilowatts of electricity, most of which will be utilized in order to supply Turkmenistan’s Lebap province, found in Turkmenistan’s highly restricted closed border zone with Uzbekistan. Beyond being able to provide northeastern Turkmenistan with electric power, the new power plant will produce enough energy to generate a surplus, nearly all of which will be utilized to provide neighboring Afghanistan with electric power by way of high-voltage transmission lines.
Turkmenistan currently provides substantial amounts of energy to the Afghan provinces of “Herat, Balkh and Faryab,” but with the commissioning of the new power plant, is expected to furnish up to 300mw to a range of cities beginning in Faryban province, a remote northern region that borders Turkmenistan, and stretching southeastward through a number of cities including Balkh (Mazar-i-Sharif) and from Kabul further south to Khost. The project, which is expected to reach completion in 2017, will be subsidized in part by the World Bank, which has pledged $480m, and the Afghan power ministry, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), which will put forward an additional $400m.
New power infrastructure, though significant in and of itself, will produce only enough energy to meet an estimated 10% of the national goal of 3,000 mw by 2020, indicating that power rationing, such as that practiced by the Tajik government, could become commonplace to rural Afghans with access to power for the very first time. Reuters reported back in 2012 that only one out of every three Afghans has access to electricity, a figure that has notameliorated, as a World Bank country analysis corroborates. The issue of consistent, unfettered access to energy remains an issue for a historically reliant Afghan government that imports up to 73% of its energy.
- Kyrgyz authorities have been working to prevent the use of the so-called “Northern Route” for drugs shipped from Afghanistan to Europe through Russia. An estimated 90 tons of heroin went through Central Asia in 2010, according to a 2012 study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Drug trafficking through Osh and Batken oblasts have increased significantly in 2014, reflecting the larger supply being produced in Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz State Drug Control Service (GKSN) have so far seized 122 kilos of drugs on the border this year alone.
- The Pakistani government’s talks with the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) have been stalled once again, leading to tribal elders in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan to despair that if the peace process goes nowhere, militancy will increase in the volatile border regions. Local maliks in Waziristan say they have been ignored and un-consulted by the authorities in charge of the negotiations, probably in an effort to make demands of TTP leadership more coherent and focused.
- Fighting season has begun again in Afghanistan, with two rockets hitting downtown Kabul yesterday. The winter months make transportation and military logistics exceedingly difficult in mountainous Afghanistan, leading to unofficial seasons of war and peace. With the winter snows melting, Taliban activity will certainly kick up once again. Last year, Taliban militants launched their offensives on May 28, but it is likely that this year they intend to disrupt the upcoming runoff elections at the end of the month as much as possible.
- Kazakhstan is courting new foreign investment with tax exemptions for 10 years. They have additionally passed legislation that will streamline hiring rules for overseas workers, intended to infuse the economy with more funds after its currency crisis earlier in the year and protests have caused a large amount of capital flight from the country.
- So-called “independence” referendum voters in Ukraine’s Donetsk oblast have reported that 89% of the residents voted to secede from Ukraine. This final vote count, issued just one day, after the paper ballots were collected, has been condemned by almost every international authority. Separatist leaders reported turnout at 75%.